In the course of speculating as to how much of a draw the addition of J.T. Realmuto in the City of Brotherly Love might be for free agent outfielder Bryce Harper (who did once say that if the catcher, “was on our side, it wouldn’t have happened” when Realmuto beat the Nationals on a walk-off hit while Washington was reportedly considering acquiring the 27-year-old catcher from Miami), MLB.com’s Jon Morosi wrote on Friday that he’d heard the Nats might make another play for Harper if he looks like he’s going to sign in Philadelphia.
Realmuto joined the Phillies this past week when the Marlins finally pulled the trigger on a 3-for-1 deal and sent the highly-regarded backstop to their divisional rivals. Will that move make it more likely that Harper decides to make Citizens Bank Park his new home?
“As one source observed late Thursday,” Morosi wrote, “against that backdrop, Harper or [Manny] Machado could credibly view themselves as one final piece of a championship-contending roster,” and with the pressure either player will face after signing the sort of deal that’s being discussed this winter, joining a team that’s already made a number of moves this offseason might be more appealing than being a team’s one big addition.
But would the Nationals let themselves be outbid for Harper’s services by a team they’ll have to play 19 times a season?
“Nationals ownership may feel obligated to match (or come very close to) the Phils’ offer if they believe Harper is on the verge of going to Philadelphia, as opposed to a team outside the NL East,” Morosi reported, citing a “source with knowledge of Washington’s thinking.”
The Nationals, of course, are the only team whose offer to Harper is out there. He reportedly turned down a 10-year/$300M contract towards the end of the regular season, and there is no word about whether or not that offer or an increased one is still on the table after all their spending and dealing this winter.
“[I]t’s unclear how many opt-outs and how much deferred money [was] in that proposal -- and if it’s still on the table after the Nationals’ other moves this offseason,” Morosi noted.
Washington has already signed Patrick Corbin (to a 6-year/$140M free agent deal), added pitchers Aníbal Sánchez and Jeremy Hellickson to the rotation, signed Kurt Suzuki, Trevor Rosenthal, Brian Dozier, and Matt Adams, and acquired Yan Gomes, Kyle Barraclough, and Tanner Rainey.
Would the Nationals, who are already close to the $206M luxury tax threshold, blow by it to bring Harper back to the nation’s capital?
As we noted in a recent story, exceeding the luxury tax threshold for, “... three or more straight seasons ... comes with a 50 percent luxury tax,” while teams, “that exceed the threshold by $20 million to $40 million are also subject to a 12 percent surtax,” and, “... those who exceed it by more than $40 million are taxed at a 42.5 percent rate the first time,” and, “... clubs that are $40 million or more above the threshold shall have their highest selection in the next Rule 4 Draft moved back 10 places.”
The Nats do appear to have wiggle room to avoid the harshest financial penalties and the drop in the draft order even if they bring Harper back (at $25-$30M per or more).
Though he’s reportedly met with the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres in recent weeks, Morosi writes that, “an official with one club pursuing Harper said his decision did not appear imminent as of Thursday evening.”
With pitchers and catchers set to report this week, will the free agent market finally break over the next few days (please?).
According to the Onion, Harper might be more willing to consider the Phillies if they moved out of Philadelphia...