The Nationals have continued to be mentioned on the periphery of the Bryce Harper bidding, but in a Friday-morning interview with NBC Sports Washington, managing principal owner Mark Lerner again suggested that Harper will not be returning to Washington. Lerner originally stated back in early December that he was not expecting to re-sign Harper.
“Nothing’s really changed on our end,” said Lerner. “We’ve moved on, as I said [in December]. We had to. There was no way we could wait around. Bryce, I’m sure, will make his decision hopefully in the next few days. But we’ve filled out our roster, and we wish him nothing but the best. But, there’s always that — the door is cracked a little bit.”
The “moved on” portion of Lerner’s statement will assuredly generate headlines throughout the day, but it should be noted that his comment loses some teeth given the immediate followup about the door remaining “cracked a little bit.” Lerner adds that the Nats haven’t even heard from Harper and agent Scott Boras in quite some time and that he has “no clue at this point what they’re up to,” which is perhaps even more telling than his somewhat muddied declaration of “moving on.”
At this point, the Harper market is murky beyond the Phillies and the Giants, the latter of whom has reportedly only been interested on a shorter-term deal than Harper has been seeking this winter. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported last night that Padres ownership was holding a meeting today to determine if there was a feasible scenario in which the team could pursue Harper even after signing Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300MM contract, although that was characterized as a long shot and would seem more a matter of due diligence than anything else at this point. Multiple reports out of Chicago have indicated that the White Sox will not be placing a bid on Harper after losing out on Machado.