Harper wants to build winning team in D.C.

By Barry Svrluga and Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On the night the most prominent prospect in franchise history made his debut, Bryce Harper sat back and waited. The No. 1 overall choice in the 2010 draft will, presumably, follow 2009 No. 1 overall choice Stephen Strasburg to Nationals Park one day, and in the minds of fans and club executives alike become part of a core that turns a franchise from also-ran to contender.

"It would be absolutely amazing to come in and play with him and try to build a winning team with the Nationals," Harper said Tuesday, a day after Washington selected the 17-year-old out of the College of Southern Nevada.

But when that might happen is perhaps the most important question of the Nationals' summer. The Nationals have until Aug. 15 to sign Harper, who is represented by uber-agent Scott Boras. Last year, Boras and Strasburg negotiated with the Nationals all the way down to the final hours before working out a record $15.1 million deal.

When Harper was asked Tuesday about the impending negotiation, he took a long pause. "I don't know," he said. "I'll leave the negotiation to Boras and stuff like that."

Boras essentially declined to answer all specific questions about Harper on Tuesday at Nationals Park.

Will he play professional ball this year? "That is a decision that Bryce and his family have to make," Boras said.

Asked more broadly about how negotiations might go with some of the top players selected in the draft, Boras indicated a quick deal seems unlikely.

He also made clear, in a circumspect manner, that he believes Harper -- who graduated early from high school so he could enter the draft early -- is a special talent, just as Strasburg was a year ago. Without mentioning the Nationals, he spoke about the turnaround of the Tampa Bay Rays, who have built one of baseball's best teams through the draft.

"You can almost count in a 10-year period that they are probably less than 10 players in that category -- that really are going to be in the league for 15, 20 years and play at a very high level," Boras said. "And if those types of players are available, I think you have something that you normally don't have a chance to get."

As for Harper, he said he would not resist moving to the outfield from catcher ("I'm pretty stoked about that") and that he would stop wearing his eye black to look like war paint ("That's totally fine").

After Boras finished addressing the situations of Strasburg and Harper, Nationals owner Mark Lerner approached the agent -- and hugged him.

"I'm confident we will work something out with Scott Boras and his organization," Lerner said. "I think Bryce wants to play very badly."

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