Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals not giving up on Bryce Harper just yet

Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo admits the team isn’t ready to move on from their franchise player without a fight

Just when it seemed like the Washington Nationals were preparing to move on from Bryce Harper, GM Mike Rizzo says not so fast.

Rizzo, speaking at the winter meetings in Las Vegas on Monday, believes Harper has meant too much to the Nationals franchise to simply let him walk without a concerted effort to keep him. “We haven’t closed the door on [him],” Rizzo said on MLB Network Radio.

“He’s a big part of our franchise, and he’s near and dear to my heart personally. Professionally, he’s a great player,” he said.

Rizzo’s comment backtracked from what owner Mark Lerner said on Friday. Lerner told a Washington radio station that the Nationals already made their best offer to Harper, and that both team and player were preparing to part ways after seven years together.

“I really don’t expect him to come back at this point,” Lerner told 106.7 The Fan. “I think they’ve decided to move on.”

Harper rejected a reported 10-year, $300 million offer from the Nationals at the end of the regular season. Rizzo, though, doesn’t begrude Harper for seeking the best deal he could find.

“He’s earned the right to see what’s out there,” Rizzo said. “We wish him the best.”

One team that does seem to be out of the Harper sweepstakes, however, is the New York Yankees. GM Brian Cashman said on Monday he doesn’t see a fit for Harper in the Yankees lineup, given the team’s depth in the outfield. Cashman also said he thinks moving Harper to first base isn’t a realistic option.

The concern about whether their franchise player will be back in 2019 hasn’t stopped the Nationals from being active this offseason. Last week they signed pitcher Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million deal to bolster their rotation that already includes Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. They also traded for catcher Yan Gomes from Cleveland, and signed former St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

The 26-year-old Harper highlights, along with shortstop Manny Machado, the free agency class this offseason. Since debuting with Washington in 2012, the 2015 NL MVP has hit .279 with 184 home runs. Last year he hit .249 with 34 homers and cracked the 100-RBI mark for the first time in his career.

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