Two days ago, in the middle of the Winter Meetings, news broke that Bryce Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, met with the Nationals ownership sometime last month to discuss a potential extension heading into Harper’s final year under contract.
It is only normal and natural that a franchise player’s agent would meet with the team about a possible extension in the year before that franchise player is scheduled to become a free agent.
It’s far less normal and natural for that meeting to be with team ownership, but (1) given Boras’s relationship with the Nationals’ owners (he’s negotiated with them before), and (2) the enormous size of a Harper extension, it makes sense that Boras would go straight to the top.
It is still very unlikely that Harper signs an extension before hitting the open market in search of what would be a record-breaking contract, but it was also unlikely that Stephen Strasburg and Scott Boras would sign an extension in the year before he was going to hit free agency. Yet, it happened. So I wouldn’t rule this out.
And while all of that still stands – including the bit that we can’t rule it out, despite what you’re about to read next – there’s some potentially good news to share on that front:
The Washington #Nats say they are realistic and firmly believe that Bryce Harper is set to test free agency next winter after casual conversations last month. They still hope to re-sign him, but only after he tests the free agent market
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 15, 2017
According to Bob Nightengale (which means, yes, you should temper your excitement), the aforementioned meeting with Nationals ownership did not result in 1. an extension or even 2. the belief that something could get done before Harper tests free agency.
To be sure, this was always the most likely outcome – when you’re just one year away from signing what could be the biggest contract in baseball history, you probably roll those dice – but it’s great to hear nonetheless.
The Cubs, then, remain firmly in the running to secure Harper’s services after this season, especially with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge patrolling the corners of Yankee stadium, the Dodgers’ already sky-high payroll, and the Phillies apparent preference for Manny Machado (who’s also a free agent next winter). There’ll be other big market teams capable of giving him what he wants in terms of years and dollars (Cardinals, Giants, Rangers, Red Sox? Tigers?), but not many and there are some imperfect fits among them.