Time to start the "Bryce Harper to the Yankees" rumors. It seemed inevitable anyway, given the fact that Harper grew up a Yankees fan, how much money the Yankees can spend and how well set up they are to spend two years from now.

And then there was this, from a USA Today report on Monday:

The Washington Nationals, balking at Bryce Harper's demands in early talks about a long-term contract extension, now are preparing themselves to be without their All-Star outfielder after 2018, a high-ranking Nationals executive told USA TODAY Sports.

The executive spoke to USA TODAY Sports on Monday only on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.

Harper, according to the executive, is asking for a record deal that will exceed 10 years in length, and likely pay him in excess of $400 million.

Ten years and $400 million! Holy smokes.

Assuming the MLB salary bubble doesn't burst in the next two offseasons, it wouldn't be surprising to see Harper get such a figure. To be clear, Harper will hit free agency after the 2018 season, absent a contract extension and it appears that just went out the window.

Keep in mind, most players don't hit free agency until their late 20s or early 30s. Harper will get there after his age-25 season. Harper is coming off a down season that followed his MVP year in 2015, but he still had a .373 on-base percentage, 116 OPS+, 24 doubles, 24 homers and 21 stolen bases. It's a career year for many players but a clear step down from his unbelievable 2015 season.

If Harper puts together two more seasons like he did in 2015, watch out. The $400 million figure might not even be high enough. Even if he sits around his career levels (.279/.382/.501 with a 162-game average of 30 doubles and 30 homers per season), he's dynamically talented and looks to earn a record deal on the open market.

We can connect the dots here to the Nationals being aggressive, per reports, in acquiring both Andrew McCutchen and Chris Sale. If the window of having one of the most talented players in baseball in his prime has two years left, the Nationals might as well be willing to give up prospects in order to load the MLB roster in an attempt to get a ring before Harper is gone.

Based upon that report above, it sounds like that's the direction this thing is headed.