LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When the New York Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton on Monday, they seemingly removed themselves from next winter’s Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Harper’s current team is trying to make it so that there is no sweepstakes.
The Washington Nationals met with agent Scott Boras last month to discuss a potential long-term contract extension.
“We had a meeting with the Washington ownership about a month ago, just for some preliminary discussions,” said Boras on Wednesday morning at baseball’s annual winter meetings. “Other than that, it’s probably something that we’ll address as time goes forward.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo indicated a strong interest in keeping Harper in the nation’s capital, but he stopped short of mentioning details of any meetings with Boras.
“We’re not going to discuss what we’re going to do with Harp,” said Rizzo, “other than that we love having [him] in the organization and we’re the team that drafted him, developed him, and he’s performed greatly for us. But we’re going to keep all those discussions internal.”
Harper, who turned 25 in October, was selected first overall by Washington in the 2010 draft. He was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 2012, and three years later, he won the NL Most Valuable Player award, becoming the youngest unanimous MVP in baseball history following a 2015 campaign in which he hit .330 with 42 home runs and led the majors with a 1.109 OPS. He slumped badly in 2016, hitting just .243 with 21 homers, but he rebounded last season and was considered an MVP favorite before suffering a gruesome knee injury in mid-August that sidelined him for six weeks.
If Harper doesn’t agree to an extension with the Nationals before the end of next season, he would be part of a star-studded 2018 free-agent class that also includes Orioles third baseman and fellow 2010 draftee Manny Machado. Due to their unique combination of youth and talent, both Harper and Machado are expected to fetch historic deals. The current record for the largest contract in MLB history belongs to Stanton, who in 2014 inked a 13-year, $325 million extension with the Marlins. Whether Washington can convince Harper to sign an extension remains to be seen.
Historically, Boras has been known for eschewing long-term extensions in favor of taking his players to free agency. However, the most notable exception is Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, a Boras client who signed a seven-year, $175 million agreement in May of 2016, six months before his contract was set to expire.
When asked on Wednesday about the possibility of Harper agreeing to an extension prior to the start of the 2018 season, Boras put the onus on the Nationals.
“That’s up to ownership,” said Boras. “So we’ll have to look at it and report back to Bryce.”