On Friday, the Washington Nationals officially introduced Patrick Corbin, their new $ 140 million stand-alone pitcher, to Nationals Park. Then, the main owner Mark Lerner, informally, almost unintentionally, said goodbye to Bryce Harper at a local radio show, adding, "We thank him for the time that he has spent here. "
The last of many points in the Harper-Washington saga was finally connected on Tuesday when the Nationals knocked out much of the world of baseball by bidding the Yankees and Phillies over $ 30 million for an agreement that they said corrected his most basic flaw: his the need for a high flying southpaw to be his # 3 starter.
"Will the Nats have enough money to sign Harper?" Asked some.
The Nats and Harper have been engaging in mutual respect for the past two years, almost since the day Washington traded against player Adam Eaton, who remains under the control of the team for three more seasons and who was considered as a future replacement for Harper – if necessary. . Since then, both sides, no matter how much the Nats really appreciate Harper and no matter how much Bryce really loves D.C., knew where that was going.
The Nats have a lot of needs. But spending the off season waiting to see if a player that they are worth $ 300 million can be re-signed for $ 400 million is not one of them.
For his part, Harper has made himself known, claiming that he wanted to be in baseball what LeBron James is at the NBA. Becoming the highest paid MLB player of all time – whether or not one of the top five players in the game – has always been a huge goal. At 26, with talent, hair, a prize MVP and Scott Boras for an agent, who can blame him for wanting to discover?
On Friday, what some knew but were too grateful, strategic or respectful on the other side to express themselves in public was finally revealed. The Nats and Harper had fun together, but it's Splitsville. Time to see other people.
"I do not really expect [Harper] return to this stage. I think they've decided to move on, "Lerner said on 106.7, pointing out that, for the moment, the Nats could" probably "not match the $ 300-million deal on 10 years that Harper had refused in September. Not even if Harper wanted to come back.
The reason: such a price, after the addition of Corbin, would reduce too much the payroll of the Nats to remain a constant and perennial competitor in the future.
"We handled the situation perfectly," said a National decision maker.
This is the conclusion of a two-year balancing exercise during which the Nats planned a viable future without Harper while leaving him the door open for him to sign again – as Stephen Strasburg did.
In September, the Nationals showed Harper the respect of a huge contract, even though he enjoyed an important team discount, though he really wanted to stay in Washington for another decade. . This offer was also a kind of departure gift for Harper – a challenge for him and Boras to set up for the other teams, as well as approval of the person's approval by Harper.
However, the offer was also late and low enough for the team to know that Harper would never take it. Just as Harper knew that his September love professions for D.C. were too small and it was too late to make a deal. Both parties prepared the ground for a harmonious separation. Because both sides knew it was going to happen.
In September, at the Nationals clubhouse, Harper tells me, "I do not know if I'm in their plans for the future."
I thought, "If you do not know it now, it means you are not. And you know it for a long time.
Do not give Harper an Oscar cynicism. He is really a little sad. But not so sad that he does not want to know everything about free will.
"He just has too much money to win," said Lerner on 106.7, speculating the upstart player could receive up to $ 100 million more than the Nats. "It's just not M.O. Mr. Boras to leave money on the table."
Why would an owner be so frank so early in the off season? It's just that Lerner is honest.
What we really have here is the emergence of Mark Lerner as the central public voice and crucial private influence in Nats decision-making.
Until now, very well.
Lerner's participation in decisions made during the off-season was one of the key elements in the Nats' ability to add five essential pieces to their list of players even before the winter meetings arrive. He and General Manager Mike Rizzo have been a close unit. "I like acting and not reacting," Rizzo said Friday.
While some teams have barely touched their problems, the Nats have looked at their top three areas of concern, adding strikers Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki, relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough, as well an excellent starter from the left-handed division at Corbin, who was the free agent pitcher of the award. this offseason.
Lerner and Rizzo impressed Corbin so much that their dinner together contributed to the quick decision of the southpaw to sign here. "You can not exaggerate the importance of Mark's impression. He is so authentic. When he talks about what he and his family want to do for the team, for Washington and for his father, you believe him completely, "said someone close to Corbin.
This sixth season – a year in which the Yankees and Phillies would have failed – Corbin's $ 140 million deal certainly helped.
The Nats may have been lucky in landing Corbin too. Corbin and his wife, Jen, met Ryan Zimmerman and his wife on a date together – in town, with no young children. Not bad seen. They spoke for almost an hour, Zimmerman apparently being an excellent ambassador by accident for the team.
Since the Nationals traded three good pitcher prospects against the White Sox for Eaton two years ago, significant changes have been anticipated since the end of the season. Getting Eaton was an insurance policy if Harper had to leave. But other key players, such as Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Murphy, were also scheduled to appear in the free agency this winter.
Plans have been laid for a long time. But Lerner's return to health, seriously ill for nearly a year and amputated from one leg while he was battling cancer in 2017, was a crucial development. His leading role comes at the right time to follow his father.
A member of Corbin's group recalled the scenes at dinner. Rizzo started to point his finger at the table in the direction of Corbin, hitting him. In the salty direct language of the baseball players, Rizzo first explained to the thrower why the Nats wanted him so much, then he returned the script and explained to Corbin why he wanted to be with the Nationals. Other teams had been a little artificial or practiced in their presentations. Not Rizzo.
Lerner – sincere, natural and the most unpretentious of the owners – began to speak. Then he started talking about the team, the city, his elderly father and the seriousness with which his franchise was about to reach the top.
"Athletes respond to emotions. And they can say what's real, "said a Corbin party member.
Now Patrick Corbin is in Washington's rotation. And with the team that no longer fears that Harper is casting a shadow over his present and his plans, the Nationals – and Lerner – are not yet finished.