It might be just over a week removed from the Boston Red Sox enjoying yet another World Series Championship parade but teams are already looking ahead to next year and building in free agency. As hot stove season gears up, all eyes seem to be on two free agents this offseason – the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Manny Machado and the Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper. Both are going to fetch a pretty penny on the open market, though we now might have an idea of the starting price.
Earlier this week, USA TODAY Sports reported Harper turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract offer from the Nationals on Sept. 26, which averages out to $30 million a season. According to one of the two sources with direct knowledge of the deal, the contract expired once Washington no longer had exclusive negotiating rights last week. The deal would have made the 26-year-old outfielder the second highest paid player in Major League Baseball, trailing the New York Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton, who is in the midst of a 10-year, $325 million contract which he originally signed with the Miami Marlins back in 2015. Making $30 million a season would put the Los Vegas native as the third highest player in the game, because while it would be more total dollars than arguably the best all-around player, the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout, it would be less than Trout’s league-leading $34.08 million last season. Keep in mind, Trout will be a free agent come 2020.
"From the first time I stepped foot in that stadium, they had my back … they were behind me. I can't thank them enough.
I love DC and that's what it's all about." – Bryce Harper pic.twitter.com/VB1W0eQGhO
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) October 1, 2018
Harper and the Nationals are free to continue their contract negotiations at this point, however keep in mind that Washington has several players it needs to re-sign and will need to focus on that as well. Last season, Harper hit .249 with 34 home runs and 100 runs-batted-in and was selected to his sixth All-Star Game appearance in his first seven seasons. And he put up those numbers even after being abysmal in the month of June, hitting .188 with just two homers and nine RBIs. Harper would definitely be the cornerstone to any franchise, considering he’s the face of MLB, he’s got playoff experience and he’s won the Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Silver Slugger awards.
The sky is the limit for both Machado and Harper this winter and it wouldn’t be surprising if both players get a deal that flirts with upwards of $400 million from a team with deep pockets, such as the Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, the St. Louis Cardinals or another team with young talent that’s looking to put butts in the seats and make a serious run at becoming a legitimate contender. It might take a little enticing, of course.
Without Harper, Washington would not only lose the league’s best hair but be in serious jeopardy of continuing to regress, rather than possibly returning to the postseason after a disappointing 2018. Winning the franchise’s first World Series won’t be easy with one of baseball’s most consistent bats no longer in the middle of the Nationals’ lineup.