LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Scott Boras met with Nationals ownership last month to discuss a contract extension with Bryce Harper, a meeting that obviously didn’t result in the consummation of any deal to keep the star outfielder in Washington long term, but at least showed a willingness on his part to engage in talks before he becomes a free agent next winter.
“We had a meeting with Washington ownership about a month ago, just for some preliminary discussions,” Boras said this morning in his annual Winter Meetings media scrum. “Other than that, it’s probably something we’ll address as time goes forward.”
Harper, entering his final season of arbitration eligibility, is set to become one of the most sought-after free agents in baseball history next winter unless he and the Nationals can come to terms on a contract before then. Boras’ clients notoriously wait until they hit the open market and can negotiate with all clubs - with Stephen Strasburg a notable exception - but the super agent suggested the onus right now is on the Nationals if they want to try to make something happen before it gets to that point.
“That’s up to ownership,” Boras said. “We’ll have to look at it and report back to Bryce.”
In a business that tends to look for prior comparables to help set parameters both in terms of years and dollars for premier free agents, Harper may present a unique case. Rarely has a player his age (he’ll turn 26 in October) accomplished so much already (a unanimous league MVP award, Rookie of the Year award and five All-Star selections) been available on the open market.
That could make this a complicated process, though Boras suggested he doesn’t view it that way.
“I frankly view it as a very simple process,” the agent said. “Look, when you have iconic players, they’re different. They’re different because you’re not paying for a performance value. You’re acquiring the right to someone that generates revenue above what you pay him, apart from his performance. That iconic value is something that attaches to very few players in baseball. It has to a few in the past. But it’s certainly something that travels with Bryce.”
While the spotlight will shine brightest on Harper over the next year, and especially at the 2018 Winter Meetings in his hometown of Las Vegas should he reach free agency, the Nationals also have another key young star approaching the open market on Harper’s heels. Anthony Rendon has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining, and often that makes this winter the time to begin contract discussions.
Such discussions could be on the radar for the Nationals and Boras, but not quite yet.
“We talk about a number of players, all the arbitration-eligible players,” Boras said. “So that’s always in discussion. But those things are usually more things we discuss in January.”