The Washington Nationals introduced new starting pitcher Patrick Corbin, who signed a six-year deal worth $140 million with the club. However, the news is overshadowed by negotiations of free agent Bryce Harper. Friday Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner didn’t seem optimistic about Harper returning to the Nationals in an interview with Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier of 106.7 the Fan.
Lerner stressed in the interview that the reported $300 million, 10-year deal the team offered Harper at the end of the 2018 regular season was the club’s “best” offer.
“Well, when we met with them and we gave them the offer, we told them, ‘This is the best we can do.’ We went right to the finish line very quickly,” Lerner said. “And we said, ‘If this is of interest to you, please come back to us and we’ll see whether we can finish it up.’ But we just couldn’t afford to put more than that in and still be able to put a team together that had a chance to win the NL East or go farther than that.”
Reports have surfaced of multiple teams now bidding on Harper, including NL East rival Philadelphia Phillies as well as the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. The Nationals appear to be waiting and seeing if Harper will come back. That apparently would be predicated on no team being willing to surpass the Nationals’ offer. Even so, the Nationals are now in a different mindset after inking Corbin as well as landing catchers Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki and relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough.
Lerner said the team feels “very strongly we’re in good shape” with the prospected outfield of Victor Robles, Juan Soto and Adam Eaton along with Michael A. Taylor if Harper opts to sign elsewhere. When asked what happens if Harper and agent Scott Boras were to revisit the Nationals’ offer?
“We’ll have to sit down and figure it out. If he comes back, it’s a strong possibility that we won’t be able to make it work,” Lerner responded. “But I really don’t expect him to come back at this point. I think they’ve decided to move on. There’s just too much money out there that he’d be leaving on the table. That’s just not Mr. Boras’ MO to leave money on the table.”
Through all the reports and rumors the feel has always been suggestive that Harper would leave the team that drafted him first overall in the 2010 MLB Draft. Despite that it appeared the Nationals were preparing for both possible scenarios of re-signing Harper and moving forward without him. The signing of Corbin presumably spelled the latter. Now, in ownership’s own words it feels all but a formality that Harper will play in a different uniform from the Washington Nationals.