MLB Rumors: Phillies Still Harper Favorite, But Nationals ‘Shouldn’t Be Discounted,’ Heyman Says

Bryce Harper swings the bat
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

While the Philadelphia Phillies remain the odds-on favorite to sign Bryce Harper this offseason, the Washington Nationals, Harper’s current team, shouldn’t be discounted in their pursuit of the free agent.

That’s the latest from reporter Jon Heyman, according to a tweet on Thursday afternoon.

“While Phillies seem like favorite for Bryce (and may well be), incumbent Nats shouldn’t be discounted,” Heyman says in the tweet. “While Nats have spent good $ (Corbin, Dozier, Suzuki, etc.) and once seemed ready to move on, they love BH, and final call will be [Nationals owner] Ted Lerner’s.”

Heyman also notes that when the Nationals signed ace pitcher Max Scherzer in January of 2015, the signing was seen around baseball as a surprise. Scherzer, like Harper, is a client of baseball super agent Scott Boras.

The Nationals, who drafted Harper first overall out of high school in early 2010, have had Harper on their team for his entire career, and while he won both Rookie of the Year and MVP awards with them, the Nationals have never won a playoff series with Harper, or in their entire history for that matter.

Washington reportedly offered Harper a $300 million, 10-year deal near the end of the season last year, which Harper is said to have rejected. According to an MLB.com report this week, up to $100 million of the Nationals’ offer to Harper consisted of deferred money. By contrast, the $300 million deal reportedly reached between Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres contains no deferred money at all.

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Additionally, a Washington Post column last weekend by Thomas Boswell argued that the 26-year-old Harper’s teammates have questioned the player’s hustle and leadership skills, and while no one on the team went on the record on the matter, one veteran player told the columnist “write it,” in regards to that story about Harper. The Nationals added players such as starting pitcher Patrick Corbin and catcher Kurt Suzuki this offseason.

In Thursday developments, Philly reported that the Phillies are “heightening” their pursuit of Harper, and are confident that the outfielder will end up in Philadelphia. The team, according to that report, entered the offseason expecting to sign one out of Harper or Machado, and that that expectation hasn’t changed now.

The report also repeated the story from MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki the day before, which stated that several teams previously linked with Harper, such as San Diego, and Washington, appear to have backed off.