So what about the future? In the past, teams have talked to key players about long-term extensions two years away from free agency. For Harper, that time hasn’t come yet. And Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo declined to say earlier in the week at the General Managers Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., whether the team had had extension discussions with any players. Asked later about Harper’s future, Rizzo said:
“We want Bryce to be here for a long long time. He’s a guy I’ve seen play forever it seems. I’ve seen him play since he was 14. He was a guy we signed, drafted and developed. He’s turned into an MVP-type player for us. We love the guy. We’ve got him locked in for the near future and we certainly would love for him to be a National for life. …. I think he likes being in D.C. I think he loves playing for the Nationals. He loves the city of D.C. I think that bodes well for us.”
Harper has said that he would love to be like Cal Ripken or Derek Jeter, who spent their entire careers with one team. The Nationals didn’t reach long-term extensions with homegrown stars Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann. They instead signed Max Scherzer to $210-million deal last winter. Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ biggest homegrown star nearing free agency, and there’s a decent chance he, too, could test the open market. More money will be coming off the books by 2018: Jayson Werth is a free agent after the 2017 season and Ryan Zimmerman is under team control through 2020.
A deal that would keep Harper in Washington would likely be historic and enormous. Some rival agents believe Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, would want to set a record with Harper’s first big deal. The benchmark: Miami’s 13-year, $325-million deal with star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, which also includes an opt-out after six years. Stanton inked that deal at 25 before his second year of arbitration. Harper would be a free agent at 26.
“I don’t discuss what teams do contractually,” Boras said when asked about Harper’s potential long-term future with the Nationals. “Bryce is certainly very happy with Washington and I’m sure Washington is very happy with him.”