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Boras: Onus on Nats to initiate Harper talks

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Boras: Onus on Nats to initiate Harper talks

NASHVILLE — If the Nationals harbor any hopes of keeping Bryce Harper in D.C. long-term, the onus will be on them to initiate negotiations, agent Scott Boras said Wednesday.

“I think those are club dynamics,” Boras said during his customary gaggle with reporters on the third day of the Winter Meetings. “Whenever any team approaches me about any player, obviously we have dialogue with them. But at this point in time, Bryce is going to be there for three more years, very happy there. So we’ll just go forward.”

Harper isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season, so this may not seem like a front-burner issue. But given all the factors at play — Harper’s just-completed MVP season, the fact he could hit the open market at 26, Boras’ reluctance historically to have his clients re-sign before becoming free agency — this winter might be the Nationals’ best shot at accomplishing what admittedly would be a gargantuan task.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals make offer to starter Leake

There has been no indication from either side that actual talks have occurred yet, and general manager Mike Rizzo suggested this week it’s not high on the current priority list.

“We’ve got quite a bit of control left on him,” Rizzo said Tuesday. “He’s going to be a unique and special situation for the franchise. I’m sure that’ll be a discussion with myself and ownership in the future.”

The framework for a potential long-term deal with Harper is difficult to put into concrete terms, because there aren’t many (if any) similar scenarios in baseball. The two most comparable players and terms might be Giancarlo Stanton’s record deal with the Marlins (13 years, $325 million) and Mike Trout’s relatively modest deal with the Angels (6 years, $144.5 million).

Stanton’s contract includes an opt-out after six years, potentially making the slugger a free agent at 31. Trout, meanwhile, still has the ability to hit the market at 29. Neither is a perfect comparison to Harper.

Boras, as he is wont to do, spoke glowingly about Harper on Wednesday, propping him up as a “generational player.” The hidden message: Whatever deal he signs, whenever he signs and with whomever he signs it, it’s going to be unlike anything the sport has seen before.

“I think with each player like that, you have generational players, I think each organization is going to have its own philosophy about how they handle him and what they do,” the agent said. “So that’s really something I’m sure the brain trust of the Nationals have to sit down and look at. And when they have a plan, we’ll let you know.”

There doesn’t appear to be any discussion at the moment of similar talks with another of Boras’ high-profile Nationals clients, Stephen Strasburg, who is eligible for free agency after the 2016 season. The club faced the same situation last winter with Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond and all but conceded they would have each in uniform for only one more season.

“We’ve always tried to think about our core players, to extend them to contracts,” Rizzo said. “We’ve tried it with several players that have left us for free agency in the past. I would concede we would do the same for [Strasburg].”

For now, the two sides simply need to come to terms on his 2016 salary, hoping to avoid arbitration. (The right-hander is likely to make something in the neighborhood of $10.5 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration projections.)

Said Boras: “We’re discussing his contract, certainly for purposes of arbitration, doing that thing.”

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.