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Boras puts onus on Nats to initiate Harper, Strasburg talks

Dec 9, 2015, 6:59 PM EDT

AP

NASHVILLE — If the Nationals harbor any hopes of keeping Bryce Harper in D.C. long-term, the onus will be on them to initiate negotiations, agent Scott Boras said Wednesday.

“I think those are club dynamics,” Boras said during his customary gaggle with reporters on the third day of the Winter Meetings. “Whenever any team approaches me about any player, obviously we have dialogue with them. But at this point in time, Bryce is going to be there for three more years, very happy there. So we’ll just go forward.”

Harper isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season, so this may not seem like a front-burner issue. But given all the factors at play — Harper’s just-completed MVP season, the fact he could hit the open market at 26, Boras’ reluctance historically to have his clients re-sign before becoming free agency — this winter might be the Nationals’ best shot at accomplishing what admittedly would be a gargantuan task.

There has been no indication from either side that actual talks have occurred yet, and general manager Mike Rizzo suggested this week it’s not high on the current priority list.

“We’ve got quite a bit of control left on him,” Rizzo said Tuesday. “He’s going to be a unique and special situation for the franchise. I’m sure that’ll be a discussion with myself and ownership in the future.”

The framework for a potential long-term deal with Harper is difficult to put into concrete terms, because there aren’t many (if any) similar scenarios in baseball. The two most comparable players and terms might be Giancarlo Stanton’s record deal with the Marlins (13 years, $325 million) and Mike Trout’s relatively modest deal with the Angels (6 years, $144.5 million).

Stanton’s contract includes an opt-out after six years, potentially making the slugger a free agent at 31. Trout, meanwhile, still has the ability to hit the market at 29. Neither is a perfect comparison to Harper.

Boras, as he is wont to do, spoke glowingly about Harper on Wednesday, propping him up as a “generational player.” The hidden message: Whatever deal he signs, whenever he signs and with whomever he signs it, it’s going to be unlike anything the sport has seen before.

“I think with each player like that, you have generational players, I think each organization is going to have its own philosophy about how they handle him and what they do,” the agent said. “So that’s really something I’m sure the brain trust of the Nationals have to sit down and look at. And when they have a plan, we’ll let you know.”

There doesn’t appear to be any discussion at the moment of similar talks with another of Boras’ high-profile Nationals clients, Stephen Strasburg, who is eligible for free agency after the 2016 season. The club faced the same situation last winter with Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond and all but conceded they would have each in uniform for only one more season.

“We’ve always tried to think about our core players, to extend them to contracts,” Rizzo said. “We’ve tried it with several players that have left us for free agency in the past. I would concede we would do the same for [Strasburg].”

For now, the two sides simply need to come to terms on his 2016 salary, hoping to avoid arbitration. (The right-hander is likely to make something in the neighborhood of $10.5 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration projections.)

Said Boras: “We’re discussing his contract, certainly for purposes of arbitration, doing that thing.”

  1. Gnat - Dec 9, 2015 at 7:12 PM

    When Harper says he wants to stay in Washington his career he means it. But there is an if.. If the team is competitive, has an organization that is built to win consistently for a long time and doesn’t have to hit the reset button, then the Nationals would be a great spot for any star player. Over the next 3 years the Nationals have the ability to show Harper that. He will have a money truck backed up on his lawn by someone.

    • veejh - Dec 9, 2015 at 11:00 PM

      He could sustain a career ending injury between now and then. Make him an offer he’d be foolish to pass up. 6 yrs $300M.

  2. Sonny G 10 - Dec 9, 2015 at 8:26 PM

    Harper is the one player we have to break the bank, if necessary, to keep him on the Nationals for the rest of his career. He is the franchise now, not just the face of it. I hope the Lerner family knows he is money in the bank for the Nationals and will bring in more money than they will ever have to spend on him, IMHO.

    • raleighnat - Dec 9, 2015 at 9:29 PM

      I agree. He is one of the few players who will pay for himself. You put $360 and twelve with an opt out and he’d be insane to turn it down. With salary inflation it would look better down the road to boot. He really is a unique asset.

  3. tcostant - Dec 9, 2015 at 8:37 PM

    Offer 15 years for $420M with an opt out after six years, make him say mo to that!

    • nats1924 - Dec 10, 2015 at 6:36 AM

      No shot w/o a tv deal – Ty Angelos!

    • bababooeytoyouall - Dec 10, 2015 at 12:08 PM

      $28 million a year? I’d turn that down for him. He’s looking at least $40 million per year starting in 2019. That’s the starting point for negotiations. Remember, this is Boras the #Nats are dealing with.

  4. veejh - Dec 9, 2015 at 11:04 PM

    I beg to differ that locking down Harper long term isn’t the most important issue moving forward.

  5. nats1924 - Dec 10, 2015 at 6:35 AM

    Harp is a great player, has the chance to be the best player ever to hit free agency – which means no way he resigns with the Nats.

    Rizzo should ride ’16 season with harp, then deal him for a haul next off-season.

    Go Nats

  6. tcostant - Dec 10, 2015 at 8:01 AM

    “This winter might be the Nationals’ best shot at accomplishing…”

    Could agree, get an offer out there now!

  7. tcostant - Dec 10, 2015 at 8:06 AM

    The Lerner’s need to know that Harper is worth, at least, a couple hundred million in franchise value. Don’t wait, it will get more expensive.

  8. wskyrnr21 - Dec 10, 2015 at 8:35 AM

    All this talk about a player with numbers for 2015.

    Think we have to look at 2016 numbers then reach a decision about renaming the team the ” Washington Harpers”!

  9. Sonny G 10 - Dec 10, 2015 at 8:47 AM

    Mike Rizzo and Ted Lerner. Here’s what you do. Sign Bryce to a long term contract, no matter what it takes, then insure his contract (or his body) with Lloyds of London, in case Bryce is unable to perform. If Bryce is able to fulfill the contract, you’ll get your money back. If he can’t, you’ll still get your money back. Q.E.D

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