Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner joined a local radio station Friday after his team announced the signing of prized free-agent lefty Patrick Corbin. It didn't take long until the questions started to focus on free agent right fielder Bryce Harper.
Remember, reports indicated the Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million extension before the end of the 2018 season that Harper rejected. Via 106.7 The Fan, a CBS station, some of the following comments were pretty enlightening from Lerner.
"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."
"If they choose some other place, I totally understand," he said. "It's the opportunity of a lifetime for Bryce and Kayla and their family. But we have no hard feelings about it, I must say. I love Bryce and he was a good teammate here. If he chooses to go some place else, I totally understand it, but we put one heck of an offer out there."
The Lerners are one of the richest ownership groups in baseball and they could afford more than that on Harper while still competing in the NL East, but OK. Moving on!
Lerner was asked if the offer still stood to Harper or if Corbin's deal now prevents the Nats from keeping that offer on the table.
"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. 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."
The market for Harper is tough to read at this point. For years, teams like the Dodgers, Cubs and Yankees were assumed to be among the heavy players once Harper's free agency arrived, but none of them have really been heavily connected in rumors thus far in the offseason for different reasons. We do know the Phillies are hot after Harper and Manny Machado, hoping to land at least one of them, and, heck, maybe they'll try for both. Teams like the Giants and Cardinals have been mentioned but don't seem likely. The White Sox are heavily on Harper, but would he hop into a situation with a team that might have promise but still only won 62 games last year?
It'll be interesting to see if we get some more clarity on Harper's situation during the winter meetings or if the situation lingers into January a total mystery, as we've seen with some recent high-profile Boras free agents.