Nationals owner Mark Lerner says he doesn’t expect Bryce Harper to return to Washington after telling the superstar outfielder that the team maxed out with its offer at the end of the regular season.
Lerner told 106.7 The Fan on Friday that he expects Harper and agent Scott Boras to take the best offer possible.
“I really don’t expect him to come back at this point,” Lerner said. “I think they’ve decided to move on. There’s just too much money out there that he’d be leaving on the table. That’s just not Mr. Boras’ M.O. to leave money on the table.”
Multiple reports said Harper rejected a 10-year contract worth approximately $300 million in September.
Lerner didn’t discuss the exact offer that was given to Harper, but he said the Nationals couldn’t comfortably offer more and field a competitive team around the six-time All-Star.
“When we met with them and we gave them the offer, we told them, ‘This is the best we can do.’ We went right to the finish line very quickly,” Lerner told 106.7 The Fan. “And we said, ‘If this is of interest to you, please come back to us, and we’ll see whether we can finish it up.’ But we just couldn’t afford to put more than that in and still be able to put a team together that had a chance to win the NL East or go farther than that.”
Even if Harper were willing to accept the previous Nationals offer, Lerner said he wasn’t sure the team could now make it work.
The Nationals officially signed left-hander Patrick Corbin on Friday, with reports saying he agreed to a six-year, $140 million contract. At a news conference introducing Corbin on Friday, general manager Mike Rizzo said the deal was “independent” of what might happen with Harper.
“I think they’re independent of each other. I really do,” Rizzo said. “We’ve gone about this business of creating a roster for 2019, and at the end of the day, we’ll figure out whether that includes ‘Harp’ or not.
“We thought it was good business — we had to fix the things we needed to fix. ‘Harp’ is a big part of our family, and we’d love to have him back.”
No timeline has been given on when Harper is expected to sign with a team. Harper is expected to receive the largest contract in free agency this year, and Boras is known for extending talks with his free agents past the holiday break.
“We feel very strongly we’re in good shape,” Lerner said. “It’ll be a young, pretty incredible outfield defensively, and certainly with the bat, it’s going to be special. I think Adam, now I think he’s back. He had that season. And I think Adam with the two young guys, it’s going to be a special outfield.”
“We feel good about where we’re at,” Rizzo said about his starting pitchers. “We’ve got our Big 3. … As you’ve heard me say many, many times: Pitching is king.
“We’ve allocated a lot of resources to our front of the rotation, and I think that elite starters, middle-lineup bats and back-end relievers is where I think you spend your money, and you try to get values along the periphery of your roster.”
If Harper has played his final game in Washington, Lerner said he will look back at Harper’s tenure fondly.
“This was a special six years,” Lerner said. “And he’ll still be iconic in the city. When he comes in playing for another team, we’ll do right by him and have a real ceremony. You can’t be mad at him, and I don’t think he’d be mad at us if we can’t go any further.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.