Mark Lerner: Nats' offer to Bryce Harper 'best we can do'

Chris Lingebach
December 07, 2018 - 2:17 pm
Nationals offer to Bryce Harper 'best we can do'

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Friday at Nationals Park was supposed to be about introducing Patrick Corbin to fans, but arguably the largest news item to come from the day wasn't about Corbin at all.

Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner spoke with a finality not previously heard from Nats officials about free agent slugger Bryce Harper.

In an interview with Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on 106.7 The Fan, Lerner was asked if the offer the Nats made to Harper was the only offer they would make, or if there's still room to negotiate. The Nats offered Harper a reported 10-year, $300 million deal on the final day of the 2018 regular season.

"Well, when we met with them and we gave them the offer, we told them, 'This is the best we can do.' We went right to the finish line very quickly,' Lerner said. "And we said, 'If this is of interest to you, please come back to us and we'll see whether we can finish it up.' But we just couldn't afford to put more than that in and still be able to put a team together that had a chance to win the NL East or go farther than that."

"If they choose some other place, I totally understand," he said. "It's the opportunity of a lifetime for Bryce and Kayla and their family. But we have no hard feelings about it, I must say. I love Bryce and he was a good teammate here. If he chooses to go some place else, I totally understand it, but we put one heck of an offer out there."

As it stands, the Nationals will enter 2019 with an outfield of Adam Eaton, Juan Soto, Michael A. Taylor and Victor Robles.

"We feel very strongly we're in good shape," Lerner said. "It'll be a young, pretty incredible outfield defensively, and certainly with the bat it's going to be special. I think Adam, now I think he's back. He had that season. And I think Adam with the two young guys, it's going to be a special outfield."

Rouhier asked if Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, decided now that they'd be willing to accept Washington's initial offer, "Is that now precluded based on what you guys have done and might do coming up?"

"It very well may be," Lerner said. "We'll have to sit down and figure it out. If he comes back, it's a strong possibility that we won't be able to make it work. But I really don't expect him to come back at this point. I think they've decided to move on. There's just too much money out there that he'd be leaving on the table. That's just not Mr. Boras' MO to leave money on the table." 

"We couldn't be fonder of the two of them, Kayla and Bryce," Lerner noted of Harper and his wife. "They're like family. I mean, they've been with us... first time we met him, he was 16 years old. It's hard to see somebody like that go, but unfortunately it's a strong possibility that's going to happen."

Asked how he'll view Harper's time in Washington, Lerner said, "This was a special six years. And he'll still be iconic in the city, when he comes in playing for another team. We'll do right by him and have a real ceremony. You can't be mad at him, and I don't think he'd be mad at us if we can't go any further."

"We've always been honest with him. My dad and I have both sat with him," Lerner said. "He's great, a terrific young man, very respectful. And, if we can't do it, we can't do it. Who knows what'll happen the next few weeks? I don't know. You don't know. But, if he leaves, we wish him nothing but the best."

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