The Nationals have avoided arbitration with superstar Bryce Harper for next year, agreeing to terms of $21.625 million for the 2018 season—the right fielder’s last year guaranteed in Washington before he hits free agency.
It’s a record one-year deal for an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $19.75 million that David Price got in 2015. And while it’s certainly no guarantee of anything to come after Harper hits free agency, it’s likely a good sign that the Nationals have kept contract discussions going with him in some form and that they’re willing to pay up now:
Harper will undoubtedly be looking for big numbers come free agency—last winter’s rumors pegged him as seeking a 10-year, $400 million deal—and will have his choice of suitors. His potential departure has loomed large for the Nationals over the last several years, seemingly playing a key role in the club’s decision to lock down Stephen Strasburg with a major extension early and to exchange big pieces of its future for a shot at a more successful present with this winter’s trade for Adam Eaton.
Whether all of this will be enough to keep Harper in town remains to be seen—but a one-year move like this certainly isn’t a bad starting point.