Jon Heyman: Nats haven't given up hope to retain Harper

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There have been strong suggestions the Nats may not have much money to spend this winter.

In any case, word is, they do plan to make a strong effort to try to keep superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. But just in case they are unable to do so, Nats people are said to be preparing two winter plans: one with Harper (who turned 26 Tuesday) and without him.

Nats people love Harper, the young homegrown star who’s ultra popular with fans who love having a superstar position player with power they can call their own. And while there’s a perception that drama surrounds Harper in some circles, the Nats don’t see it that way; they view him as a spirited young man who’s enthusiastic about the game, a gym rat type who’s driven to succeed. If there has been a bit of drama, it may not be his fault that the team has shown favoritism on occasion toward their prodigy.


The Nationals were reported to have less financial flexibility by Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. But the whole game changes, depending on whether they are able to retain Harper. You’d think their chances may not be great since he’s about to reach free agency, where 29 other teams will be able to bid; however, there is precedent for young homegrown stars reaching free agency to stay with their original team. Bernie Williams did just that 20 years ago with the Yankees. Like Harper, Williams was represented by Scott Boras.

The Nats and Boras have forged so many deals before, including the $210 million free agent deal for Max Scherzer and a $175 million deal for Stephen Strasburg when he was on the cusp of free agency.

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The Nats have been oddly tight when it comes to managers — Bud Black once was offered a one-year deal, Dusty Baker was paid 40 percent less than what he made in his previous stop in small-market Cincinnati, and ownership was so upset to have to pay Davey Johnson more than $3 million off a 98-win season they made him agree that would be his final year over re-signing him — but they’ve spent generously on players. In fact they had the highest payroll in the National League this year, and especially after being the one team in the NL to top the luxury tax threshold, they may not be in a spending mode.

In the aftermath of their disappointing 82-80 season — they won 95-plus four of the prior six seasons — they have done some cost cutting in the front office and scouting staff, laying off respected assistant GM Bob Miller and a couple others. They have saved a little bit of money with these moves, but nothing that should impact their biggest pursuit.

Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and FancredSports.com. You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.

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