Harper’s hot stove heats up with arrival of 2019

The hot stove as it relates to free agent outfielder Bryce Harper appears to be heating up again since the calendar turned to 2019.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that Nationals owner Ted Lerner met with agent Scott Boras “multiple times,” and The Washington Post reported that one meeting right before Christmas lasted five hours.

It was thought that the Dodgers had paved the way for Harper to play in Chavez Ravine with their clearing of payroll and players in their mega-deal with the Reds last week.

Harper-tightens-gloves-sidebar.jpgBut the latest rumors have the Harper sweepstakes centering around the Phillies, White Sox and Nats. There is also still plenty of time for a mystery suitor to swoop in and make a deal before spring training commences next month.

NBC Sports Philadelphia is reporting that a meeting between Harper and the Phillies could happen in Las Vegas in “the next week or so.”

One major point that could decide how much money and how long a contract Harper receives is the deal that free agent Manny Machado ends up procuring. Boras will most definitely want to beat whatever deal Machado receives and get a better deal for Harper.

Machado is represented by Dan Lozano and MVP Sports Group. Boras might hold off on a deal already in place for Harper while he waits to see to what Machado gets. Then Boras can try to do better that that for his client.

Outfielder Victor Robles has played only 34 games through two seasons, so his rookie status is still intact through 2019. Would Robles be slotted as the Nats’ fourth outfielder in 2019 if they can find a way to re-sign Harper?

Can you imagine an outfield of Juan Soto, Adam Eaton and Harper with Robles first off the bench? Robles played 25 games of winter ball, slashing .265/.345/.316, with his last game Nov. 23.

With pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg getting back-loaded contract extensions to be with the Nats through at least 2021 (Scherzer) and 2023 (Strasburg), it seems logical that Boras and Ted Lerner have put together similarly structured proposals for Harper to remain with the Nats. If the reported 10-year, $300 million package is still on the table, could Boras negotiate an opt-out in exchange for back-loaded money or a reduction in years? And would he need to wait for the Machado deal before he signed off on a similar (but better) deal for his prized client Harper?

It is amazing that it’s Jan. 3 and Harper has still not signed yet. The winter meetings were way back in early December, and they were in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas, and yet no official deal was announced. So, it has to be the feeling that the Nats’ chances of finding a way to get Harper back in the fold are actually better now than when the team recorded its final out in Denver back in late September.

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