WASHINGTON -- The Nationals made it clear from the start of the offseason that they did not intend to wait around while Bryce Harper made his decision in free agency. On Tuesday, they crossed another major item from their own to-do list when they agreed to a six-year, $140 million
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals made it clear from the start of the offseason that they did not intend to wait around while Bryce Harper made his decision in free agency. On Tuesday, they crossed another major item from their own to-do list when they agreed to a six-year, $140 million deal with free-agent left-hander Patrick Corbin, the top starting pitcher on the market, sources confirmed to MLB.com.
Adding a starter had always been one of the Nats' top priorities this winter, and Corbin was a top target from the start. So Tuesday's news seems unlikely to change much in Washington's pursuit of Harper this offseason. A source described the pursuit of Harper to MLB.com as independent of the team's other needs.
General manager Mike Rizzo has stated several times that a deal as lucrative as the one Harper will reportedly command will include heavy involvement from ownership. Rizzo and the Lerner family have successfully negotiated a pair of blockbuster deals with Harper's agent Scott Boras, who also represents and worked out seven-year deals with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
Signing Corbin should push the Nats' estimated payroll to approximately $190 million next season, a rough estimate pending raises via arbitration. Washington still has a few minor needs this offseason, but nothing that would come close to the kind of salary commitment Harper will require. Bringing Harper back now means the Nationals would almost certainly push past the luxury tax threshold, expected to be around $206 million next season, a number the Nats have stated they would prefer not to exceed for a third consecutive season.
A club exceeding the Competitive Balance Tax threshold for the first time must pay a 20 percent tax on all overages. A club exceeding the threshold for a second consecutive season will see that figure rise to 30 percent, and three or more straight seasons of exceeding the threshold comes with a 50 percent luxury tax. If a club dips below the luxury tax threshold for a season, the penalty level is reset. So, a club that exceeds the threshold for two straight seasons but then drops below that level would be back at 20 percent the next time it exceeds the threshold.
It is unclear whether they are willing to change their minds if that means re-signing Harper.
With the Winter Meetings beginning next week in Harper's hometown of Las Vegas, his market is expected to intensify even more. Several teams have already met with Harper in the past month, including the White Sox, Dodgers and Phillies, according to a report by Yahoo Sports. The Nats reportedly offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract with no opt-outs at the end of the regular season, which he rejected, setting perhaps the floor for what Harper and Boras will be asking for in these negotiations.
Washington was always expected to circle back to Harper at some point this winter and even after signing Corbin the Nats will still almost certainly do so. They meet with virtually every top agent at the Winter Meetings and when they sit down with Boras they will almost certainly discuss Harper again.
"[Harper] knows where we stand," Rizzo said this past weekend. "He knows how we feel about him. Things should take care of themselves."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.