LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Sports agent Scott Boras addressed reporters as the general managers’ meetings wound down Wednesday afternoon, commanding the media masses into a massive scrum around him, then navigating questions for 45 minutes or so, in keeping with meetings tradition. Questions fly in from all around, about topics far and wide. One of them almost always involves Bryce Harper.
Wednesday, roughly a year from when Harper is scheduled to become a free agent, that question was whether Boras has spoken to the Nationals about a contract extension that could prevent Harper from becoming a free agent at all.
“No,” said Boras, who then indicated that future discussions of the topic will be “up to the Nationals.”
The Nationals, for their part, will be open to talking about an extension, according to a person familiar with the situation. Of course they will be. Harper is one of the best players in the game, one of its most marketable stars, a transcendent talent. The Nationals drafted him and helped develop him. They will try to keep him, if they can. But as of now, according to Boras, the sides have not talked about a deal.
Harper should be entering his final year of arbitration, but Boras and the Nationals eliminated the need for discussion when they agreed to a deal that bought out his last year of arbitration and will pay him $21.625 million in 2018. That deal amounted to a gesture of goodwill from the Nationals, who at the time committed more money to Harper than any team had ever paid a player who would otherwise be arbitration eligible — and eliminated the need for any potentially contentious conversations in the winter before Harper’s final season before free agency.
Boras and the Nationals will have those arbitration-related conversations about Anthony Rendon, who is under team control for two more seasons — about the time teams often consider buying out arbitration years as part of a larger extension. Boras said he and the Nationals have not talked about an extension yet, as those conversations usually happen later in the winter, often during arbitration talks. A person familiar with the Nationals’ plans said the same thing, that nothing is in the works yet, as those conversations normally happen later. MLB Trade Rumors’s well-regarded arbitration projections project Rendon to make $11.5 million in arbitration this offseason after he hit .300 and accumulated 100 RBI for the first time in his career.
Harper, meanwhile, is widely expected to command a larger deal than the one Giancarlo Stanton received from the Marlins — perhaps larger by $100 million or more — which provides ample incentive to test free agency. Consequently, the Nationals would likely have to reach beyond even what they might in free agency to lure Harper away from the free agent waters, though no one has said so. Few Boras clients opt for extensions, though Stephen Strasburg is a relevant exception.