On Friday afternoon, the Washington Nationals officially signed pitcher Patrick Corbin, and introduced him to D.C. in a press conference from Nationals Park. The giant scoreboard on the field flashed his name, and teammates Max Scherzer, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, and Yan Gomes sat in the front row along with media members as Corbin answered questions next to Mike Rizzo, the team’s president and general manager.
But just a few hours after what felt like a celebratory event for the team, Bryce Harper started trending. During an interview with 106.7 The Fan, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner told hosts Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier that the team has stopped negotiating with Harper and that he does not expect the superstar free agent to return to Washington and said that it’s a “strong possibility” that he leaves.
Rouhier asked if the moves the Nats have recently made, including a six-year, $140 million deal with Corbin, have affected the team’s ability to sign Harper even if Boras changes his mind.
“If he comes back, it’s a strong possibility that we won’t be able to make it work,” Lerner told 106.7 The Fan. “But I really don’t expect him to come back at this point. 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’ MO to leave money on the table.”
Lerner added that the reported $300 million is the best the Nationals could offer.
“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,” he told the radio station.
During the end of Washington’s disappointing season, Harper repeatedly expressed his appreciation for D.C., but left everything up in the air. On Sept. 26, his final game of the season—and perhaps ever—in a Nationals uniform, Harper arrived early to the game and the crowd greeted him with multiple standing ovations.
“I’ve always said: If I’m in those plans, I’d absolutely love to be here,” Harper told Barry Svrluga of The Post in September. “But if I’m not, there’s nothing I can do about it. There’s nothing I can do. I would love to play next to [Victor] Robles or [Juan] Soto or [Adam] Eaton. I’d love to. But am I in those plans? I have no idea.”
It’s increasingly looking like Harper is not in those plans. Lerner’s Friday afternoon interview could be interpreted as a farewell of sorts to the 26-year-old who helped turn around a franchise.
“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.
“He’s great, a terrific young man, very respectful. And, if we can’t do it, we can’t do it. Who knows what’ll happen the next few weeks? I don’t know. You don’t know. But, if he leaves, we wish him nothing but the best.”
Photos by Keith Allison on Flickr, used under the Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license.