Lerner suggests Harper unlikely to re-sign with Nationals

Inside Patrick Corbin's courting and the world of the newest...

Inside Patrick Corbin's courting and the world of the newest...

Ten or so teams might still be in the mix, including the Phillies, who've declared themselves ready to "spend stupid money", but the Nats were viewed among the favorites until Lerner said, "I really don't expect [Harper] to come back at this point".

Washington Nationals new pitcher Patrick Corbin answers questions from members of the media during a baseball news conference at Nationals Park in Washington, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.

"When we met with them and we gave them the offer, we told them, 'This is the best we can do, '" Lerner told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. "We went right to the finish line very quickly, 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". "I think they've made a decision to move on". General manager Mike Rizzo, though, insisted today the two aren't connected and that he has merely been addressing his team's biggest roster holes so far this winter while still allowing for the possibility Harper could return.

Educated guesses as to when Harper will sign vary from next week at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas to perhaps next month.

Even if Harper was willing to accept the previous Nationals offer, Lerner said he wasn't sure the team could now make it work. "That's just not Mr. Boras' M.O.to leave money on the table".

Cash is king, but superstars like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will likely want a little more than just dollars.

As it stands, the Nationals will enter 2019 with an outfield of Adam Eaton, Juan Soto, Michael A. Taylor and Victor Robles. "It very well may be", Lerner said. Neither is Lerner concerned about the state of the Nationals' outfield unit without Harper, saying it's a "young, pretty incredible outfield defensively, and certainly with the bat it's going to be special".

If Harper has played his final game in Washington, Lerner said he will look back at Harper's tenure fondly. "And he'll still be iconic in the city". But we have no hard feelings about it, I must say.

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