Nats still don't want to shut the door on Harper

Brian Tinsman
February 17, 2019 - 9:55 pm

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports


Even after talking some tough talk this offseason and doing everything possible to pursue Plan B, the Washington Nationals are still hoping Bryce Harper walks through the door in West Palm Beach.

They can't help it. Maybe it's because Bryce Harper is a generational baseball talent. Maybe it's because the ownership group can't imagine life without him.

But they're determined to leave the door open long enough to have it slammed in their faces.

General manager Mike Rizzo talked to reporters including the The New York Times this weekend, and ran the full spectrum of Harper emotions.

There was the tough talk from Rizzo: "We made it clear to him he was loved here and we wanted him to stay here. We felt that since he’s our player, we have this window to figure out if we can get a deal done.

"But we also had to put an expiration date on it, because how do you do other business if you don’t have an expiration date on that offer?"

And there was the frantic backpedaling from Rizzo: “That doesn’t mean that we can’t circle back and do something another time — including now — but we felt that Harp was our primary goal, and we had a strategy and a plan put together to make him a good, fair offer."

Then there was a little more tough talk from Rizzo: "But we felt that the expiration date on that was as important because once free agency started, we had to be able to go out and look at other avenues with the mindset that we could always circle back if we had to."

Rizzo has the difficult task of building a winner that his boss can be proud of and fans will respond to. Nobody is criticizing his work, and Nats fan sentiment seems to have largely turned against Harper, at least in the world of sports radio. 

But Rizzo deserves his dignity as well. Even if the Lerners plan to swoop in and match Harper's final, astronomical offer from another team, Rizzo shouldn't have to advocate for expiring offers in one breath and then say that the offer can be revisited at any time (including now!), in the next breath. That is the definition of a non-exploding offer.

There is little question that Harper's decision has held D.C. hostage for several years, even as Rizzo has pursued other ways to build a winner. Even as the door for retaining Harper seemingly closes, Rizzo is forced to peek through the crack until the door slams in his face.

By dragging this out, Harper is setting his former employer up to look desperate and foolhardy unless he re-signs in Washington.

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