Washington Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner told 106.7 The Fan that the team won’t be offering more to free agent superstar Bryce Harper than the 10-year, $300 million deal they proposed at the end of the 2018 season.
“When we met with them and we gave them the offer, we told them, ‘This is the best we can do,’” Lerner told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. “We went right to the finish line very quickly. 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.”
The Nationals moved quickly this offseason to shore up other areas of need, signing starting pitcher Patrick Corbin and catcher Kurt Suzuki and trading for catcher Yan Gomes, among other moves.
Lerner advanced the notion that Harper shouldn’t be expected back in Washington by saying he will “totally understand” if he signs with another team and implying the team might not have the ability to up the $300 million ante it set.
“If he comes back, it’s a strong possibility that we won’t be able to make it work,” Lerner said. “But I really don’t expect him to come back at this point. I think they’ve decided to move on.”
The final nail in the coffin was a slip into using “when” rather than “if.”
“This was a special six years. And he’ll still be iconic in the city, when he comes in playing for another team,” the owner said. “We’ll do right by him and have a real ceremony. You can’t be mad at him, and I don’t think he’d be mad at us if we can’t go any further.”
Without Harper, the Nationals’ outfield will still include the likes of Adam Eaton and Juan Soto, and some have argued that the team will be better without Harper as it’s constituted now.
• Adam Zielonka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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