The Washington Nationals appear to still be a player in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes despite principal owner Mark Lerner suggesting otherwise a month ago. Just where the club stands against other teams vying for Harper is unclear. However, there may be a clue.
According to Jim Bowden of the Athletic, the Nationals have made an offer “much more” than the Nationals’ original offer of $300 million.
Harper rejected a $300 million, 10-year deal from the Nationals just before the end of the 2018 season. He has tested free agency, prompting Lerner to say he “really” didn’t expect Harper to re-sign with the Nationals after Washington gave their best offer.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo dismissed the owners statement. Recently, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported Harper had met with the Nationals multiple times in negotiations. Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post detailed Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, met with the Nats’ ownership for five hours just before Christmas.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox appear to be the Nationals’ biggest opponents for Harper. Reports have been all over the place, but a prominent one suggested the White Sox are not willing to offer more than a seven-year deal.
The Phillies reported are set to have a face-to-face meeting with Harper. When asked about such a meeting, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak answered “We’re working on that,” per Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.
There has been speculation that Harper is struggling to find a deal of close to his $400 million preference. If so, Bowden’s report could be merely Boras’ attempt to drive up the the offered dollars. Or, it’s a chance the Nationals are indeed going all out. It’s still anyone’s guess and there is sure to be more reports on Harper until he makes his final decision.