Superstar outfielder Bryce Harper became a free agent last weekend, but not before turning down an "aggressive offer" from the Nationals, the Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing multiple people familiar with the negotiations.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed Tuesday that the team had contract talks with Harper before the end of the season.
"We've had conversations, and we utilized our exclusivity to negotiate with him late in the season through when he became eligible to sign with a team,'' Rizzo told reporters in Carlsbad at the GM meetings in Carlsbad. "We didn't get anything done, but he's a guy that is near and dear to us, and we are not closing any doors.''
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The offer was worth less than $400 million and did not contain any opt-outs, one source told the Post. Fancred's Jon Heyman reported the Nationals made the offer on Sept. 26, the day of the team's home finale.
Harper, a six-time All-Star and the 2015 NL MVP, is expected to be the most-sought-after free agent this winter. He has spent the entirety of his seven-year career in Washington.
The oddsmakers at Bovada gave the Giants the fourth-best odds (15/2) to sign the 26-year-old, behind the Philadelphia Phillies (1/1), the Chicago Cubs (3/1) and the Nationals (4/1). The Giants have a new man in charge of baseball operations in former Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, who will be introduced to Bay Area media Wednesday.
At that point, we'll have a much better idea if he's willing to go farther than the Nationals to sign Harper.
When the Dodgers traded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Reds last month, it sparked speculation that the team was clearing space in its outfield to sign Bryce Harper.
What if it was for A.J. Pollock instead, though?
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday that the Dodgers are interested in Pollock, who fits their player profile and needs in many ways.
Pollock has his issues -- he reportedly wants a five-year, $80 million contract, and he played more than 115 games just twice in seven seasons with the Diamondbacks. But, as Rosenthal noted, Pollock would provide the Dodgers with positional versatility and the right-handed bat they need. Harper, a lefty hitter who mostly plays right field, would do neither, and he’s rumored to be seeking a $300 million-plus deal.
While the Dodgers have big wallets, they could decide signing Pollock for about one-fifth the price of Harper is more prudent. That certainly would sit well with Giants fans, who don’t want to see their hated NL West rivals loading up for a run at a seventh consecutive division title.
And before you ask, no, Harper and/or Pollock aren’t options for the Giants, who also could use outfield help. It’s clear new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, who came from the Dodgers, values sense more than dollars as he tackles the huge task of making the Giants contenders again.
Both the Giants and the A's reportedly had interest in acquiring Yankees starting pitcher Sonny Gray this offseason, but it doesn't appear he'll make a return to the Bay Area.
Per Fancred's Jon Heyman, the Yankees and Reds are engaged in trade discussions that would send Gray to Cincinnati in exchange for infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick.
Gray would have made sense for both Bay Area teams, as the Giants and the A's could use an influx of quality starting pitching. Gray went 11-9 with a 4.90 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 130.1 innings for New York last season, but he was far better on the road than he was at home.
Considering Oakland Coliseum and Oracle Park are far more pitcher-friendly than Yankee Stadium, a bounceback season in the Bay Area certainly could have been possible. Alas, it appears Gray could be making his home starts at Great American Ball Park, which just might be the most hitter-friendly park in the entire league.