Bryce Harper Said He Was ‘Hurt’ by Nationals’ Contract Offer

Jesse Pantuosco
May 08, 2020 - 8:04 am

Bryce Harper never wanted to leave the nest. The All-Star outfielder thought he would be a National for life. “Looking at Jeter, looking at [Ripken], looking at Trout now, players that are staying with their team for their whole career. It’s awesome,” said Harper of his desire to wear a single uniform for his entire career. “That’s what I wanted.”

With free agency approaching in 2019, Harper was confident the Nationals—the team that drafted him first overall in 2010—would put a bow on him. “I sat there with my wife, I said, ‘Babe, we’re going back. I’m going back to D.C.,’” Harper told Jared Carrabis and Dallas Braden on Barstool’s Starting 9 podcast earlier this week. Over the Christmas holiday, the one-time NL MVP traveled to Palm Springs for a sit-down meeting with Nationals brass and came away encouraged by the progress made, believing the two sides would eventually settle on a middle ground.

“I thought we had a really good meeting. I walked out of there I said, ‘Scott, get it done,’” said Harper, who contributed a career-high 114 RBI in his debut season with the Phillies in 2019. But when the offer came, Harper was devastated.

“It hurt,” said Harper of Washington’s reported 10-year, $300-million offer. The six-time All-Star knew his D.C. tenure was over when the Nationals poured $140 million into former Diamondbacks ace Patrick Corbin later that offseason. That was also the moment Harper knew the Nationals would win the 2019 World Series.

“I said to Scott, ‘They’re going to win the World Series,’” the 27-year-old recalled of the moment Corbin put pen to paper. “I said they were always one pitcher away.”

Citing Aroldis Chapman’s trade to Chicago in 2016—only to re-sign with the Yankees months later—Harper pitched the idea of the Nationals trading him for prospects and returning as a free agent the following offseason. “We’re out of it, we have no chance. We just sent [Daniel] Murphy, just sent all these guys away. You’re throwing in the towel,” said the eight-year vet, who found out later the Nationals had a “handshake” agreement in place with Houston, though obviously that blockbuster never came to fruition. “You just made your organization better for the next whatever years and you possibly signed me back.”

Harper knew he’d catch flak for leaving the Nats as a free agent, but he just couldn’t get on board with the deal’s proposed payout structure, which included a whopping $90 million in deferred money. “Now I’m gonna’ look terrible,” said Harper, acknowledging the vitriol from fans who might perceive him as greedy for snubbing his nose at an admittedly lavish $300-million offer. “Of course, that’s a lot of money. I didn’t not respect the offer, like I understood it. But I just didn’t like the deferred money.”

As difficult as it was for Washington to see one of its franchise cornerstones defect to a division rival, Harper knew the Nationals would be in good hands with up-and-comer Juan Soto. “I knew they had Juan Soto coming up, they had [Victor] Robles coming up and only had to pay them $520,000,” said the lifetime .276 hitter. “I knew Soto was going to come in and be really really good, so they weren’t afraid of losing me.”

Watching the Nationals soar to World Series glory without him couldn’t have been an easy pill to swallow, but Harper certainly appreciates what his former teammates were able to accomplish. “I couldn’t be happier for those guys because those are the guys that I grinded with for the first seven years of my career,” Harper expressed in his two-hour chat with Barstool. “Seeing [Stephen] Strasburg do what he did in the playoffs. Like if you can’t tip your cap as a player, you don’t deserve to watch him play.”

Despite enticing offers from the Astros and Dodgers, Harper knows he made the right choice to play in Philadelphia. “I haven’t been happier in my life I think. This past year has been so much fun for me with my kid and my family and going into a new city and them just opening their arms,” said Harper, whose blue-collar upbringing and heart-on-his-sleeve playing style have made him an immediate Philly icon. “They got my back too. I know that if I get into a fight, there’s probably going to be a fan around on the field to fight with me.”

We all know how much Bryce loves to throw down, right Hunter Strickland?

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