Bryce Harper has declined the qualifying offer extended to him 10 days ago, an expected move that now ensures the Nationals will get draft-pick compensation if the star outfielder signs with another club this winter.
The Nationals extended the offer - one year for $17.9 million, a figure predetermined by Major League Baseball - as required Nov. 2, then technically had to wait 10 days before Harper was required to make his decision. Not that his decision was ever in doubt.
Harper, who made $21.625 million in his final season of arbitration eligibility, was never going to accept a one-year deal when he’s in line to receive the largest contract in MLB history this winter as a free agent, one that is expected to break Giancarlo Stanton’s previous mark of $325 million.
The Nationals, though, now know for sure they will receive a draft pick as compensation if Harper signs elsewhere for at least $50 million. That pick won’t be as high as they would like - because they surpassed MLB’s luxury tax threshold this season, their compensatory pick would come after the fourth round of the 2019 draft - but it nevertheless is something in return for potentially losing the biggest-name free agent the club has ever had.
Had the Nationals been able to get under the $197 million luxury tax threshold, they would have received a pick prior to the third round of the draft instead.
Harper is free to negotiate with all 30 clubs now, though there has been no indication from agent Scott Boras yet that formal meetings with team executives are scheduled. An obvious opportunity will present itself Dec. 10-13 at the Winter Meetings, which are being held in Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas.
The Nationals, even after today’s news, still have the ability to negotiate with Harper and re-sign him, and neither side has suggested they don’t intend to negotiate again after the club’s exclusive window of opportunity closed.
But the Nats are now facing serious competition for Harper’s services, with the Cubs, Dodgers, Phillies, Giants and possibly the Yankees and Cardinals expected to be in the mix.