“He’s one of our own,” Rizzo said Monday. “We drafted him, signed him, developed him, watched him turn into a star with Washington on his chest. I will high-five him or hug him when I see him, and then I’m going to want to beat his a--. He’s going to want to do the same to me. That’s how I look at it. He’s a great competitor. It’s going to be fun."
During an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies from the Nationals’ spring training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., Rizzo recounted Washington’s negotiations with Harper once more.
“We met with Bryce a couple of times at the tail end of the season,” Rizzo said. “Our thought process was this: We wanted to keep him. Our strategy was we have exclusivity to negotiate with him until the first day of free agency, and then he becomes a free agent to everybody. We felt that our best way to not only try and lock him down but to then know what the landscape looks like going forward as far as the offseason, who we can go after and that type of thing . . . was to try and sign him before the free agent deadline."
The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million deal on the day of Washington’s final home game of the regular season. The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga reported that two people with knowledge of that offer, which expired on the first day of free agency, said the amount of deferred money was unprecedented, and one said Harper wouldn’t see all of the money until he was 60.
“It was a $300 million deal over 10 years, and there was some money deferred,” Rizzo said Monday. “I’m not going to get into the specifics of it, but it was a real aggressive opening offer to a great player. . . . They never told us what their feelings were toward it. They did not counter on it.”
The 13-year, $330 million deal Harper signed with the Phillies did not include any deferred money.
After a busy offseason that included acquiring starting pitchers Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez, relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough, second baseman Brian Dozier and catchers Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes, Rizzo said this year’s team is “more balanced” and “deeper” than last year’s, even without Harper. While he’s excited for Harper’s early-season return to Nationals Park, Rizzo is perhaps even more excited to see how his club stacks up against the rest of a division with four legitimate contenders.
“Bryce is must-see TV every time he comes to the plate with us, and Max [Scherzer] is must-see TV every time he pitches, so against each other, it’s going to be crazy,” Rizzo said. “I can’t wait for that. I know the media loves to talk about the Bryce thing, but this division is going to be fun to play, and we respect all those teams. We fear none of them. Our job is to win the division and go deep into the playoffs. Our expectations haven’t changed in the last eight years, and we’re going to continue to plug away to win a championship.”
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