NATIONALS PARK -- The day, as the one before and the one before that, pivoted to the looming question that’s now a month old: What’s happening with Bryce Harper?
Patrick Corbin was the attraction Friday afternoon at Nationals Park. The Nationals announced his signing, conducted a press conference, thanked his family. Once those steps concluded, the conversation turned to Harper, as it always does and will continue to do so until he decides on his next employer.
“Bryce and I have a great relationship,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told NBC Sports Washington. “We have an open dialogue. He knows our feelings towards him and we know his feelings towards us. There’s nothing but mutual respect there. When the time comes, we’ll sit down and discuss things. But our parallel paths of negotiating different deals has taken place. We need to build a roster and always keep in mind, keep an open door that something could happen, and if it does then we’ll check it at the time.”
Rizzo was sitting in front of what was Harper’s locker (double locker, actually) for years. A few stalls to the right of that space is where Juan Soto and Victor Robles sat at the end of last year. They changed everything about the Harper pursuit. Washington’s currently flush outfield provides space for it to work elsewhere, in particular filling holes in the starting rotation and behind the plate.
The Harper decision would always be one made by ownership. Which meant Rizzo building the roster independent of Harper worked as the edict here. If he came back, it would just be an over-the-top situation, bolstering the Nationals -- already near the top of the league in payroll -- into a form of the Yankees.
"I think they're independent of each other,” Rizzo said of Corbin and Harper. “I really do. We've gone about this business of creating a roster for 2019, and at the end of the day, we'll figure out whether that includes Harp or not. We thought it was good business -- we had to fix the things we needed to fix. Harp is a big part of our family, and we'd love to have him back."
Managing principal owner Mark Lerner indicated Friday the chances of that were dwindling. Rizzo remained open. Regardless, the roster now has several answers, even if everyone is still searching for one from Harper.
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