Throughout the ramping up of Bryce Harper’s free agency in recent weeks, it’s often been mentioned that the Washington Nationals, Harper’s current team, are still in the hunt for him. Some reports have even implied that the Nationals will be given a chance, at the end of the process, to match any offer from other teams for their star player.
Now, those reports have been refuted by the Nationals’ owner, who says that the team has “moved on” from Harper.
In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington, Nationals owner Mark Lerner says that he hasn’t heard from Harper or his agent Scott Boras in “months.”
“We’ve moved on. As I said back then and we had to,” Lerner told reporter Lisa Redmond. “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 like I said, we wish him nothing but the best.”
Lerner’s declaration is a rare on-the-record quote by a team owner about the pursuit, or lack thereof, of a specific star free agent player.
The Nationals drafted Harper in 2010 when he was just 17-years-old. He had even gotten his GED in order to finish high school and enter the draft a year early. Harper reached the majors two years later and has emerged in that time as one of the game’s top players, winning both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards, even as his Nationals team has been short on postseason success.
Exclusive: Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner to NBC Sports Washington on Bryce Harper: “We’ve moved on.”
— Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) February 22, 2019
The team offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million deal at the end of the 2018 season, an offer which contained a great deal of deferred money. However, Harper rejected it, and the Nationals spent the offseason adding such players as pitcher Patrick Corbin, second baseman Brian Dozier, and catcher Kurt Suzuki.
The Philadelphia Phillies, an NL East rival of the Nationals, have been seen as Harper’s most likely destination for the last several weeks, although such teams as the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, and Chicago White Sox are also reportedly in on the outfielder. Boras, one of baseball’s more aggressive agents, is expected to demand more for Harper than the 10-year, $300 million contract agreed to with Manny Machado by the San Diego Padres earlier this week.
Lerner’s family, led by Mark’s father Ted, has owned the Nationals since 2006 when the former Montreal Expos franchise was purchased from Major League Baseball.