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Harper expresses desire to remain with Nats

MLB.com @DKramer_

The prospect of watching Bryce Harper take the field at Nationals Park in a visiting jersey is one that isn't just bemusing to most baseball observers, but Harper himself.

"That's weird," Harper said on Tuesday in an interview with The Washington Post. "And who wants to see that? That's really weird."

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The prospect of watching Bryce Harper take the field at Nationals Park in a visiting jersey is one that isn't just bemusing to most baseball observers, but Harper himself.

"That's weird," Harper said on Tuesday in an interview with The Washington Post. "And who wants to see that? That's really weird."

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In one of his first interviews relating to his impending free agency, Harper told the Post that he would "absolutely love to be" in Washington long term. Harper established himself as a fan favorite and the face of the franchise -- if not all of MLB -- while leading the club to four postseason berths since he was selected with the first overall pick in 2010.

"I think about other cities, but I love it here," Harper said.

Harper's free agency has been calendar-marked for years, given his rapid ascent to becoming one of the Majors' best players at such a young age. And it's long been speculated that Harper wouldn't have pause to leave Washington given the demand he would likely see on the free-agent market, though Harper tempered those assertions in his interview with the Post.

"When I talk about D.C., I get giddy. I get happy. Because it's me. It's what I know," Harper said. "I don't know anything else. I don't know what it feels like to play for the Dodgers. I don't know what it feels like to play for the Yankees. I don't know what it feels like to play for anybody that you look at. I don't know!"

Harper won the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year Award and the 2015 NL MVP Award, he's a six-time All-Star and will turn just 26 years old next month, positioning him to hit the market with established credentials as he enters the prime of his career. However, the Nationals' disappointing end to the 2018 season has created uncertainty as to how the club plans to address the team's needs heading into the offseason. Harper has also had one of the most up-and-down seasons of his seven-year career, hitting just .214/.365/.468 through the first half -- though he did club 23 homers and made the All-Star team.

"Am I in the [Nationals'] plans, you know? I don't know," Harper said. "It's hard to think about ... It's like, 'Well, it could all be over in a second.' It's kind of crazy.

"I've always said, 'If I'm in those plans, I'd absolutely love to be here,'" Harper said. "But if I'm not, there's nothing I can do about it. There's nothing I can do. I would love to play next to Victor Robles or Juan Soto or Adam Eaton. I'd love to. But am I in those plans? I have no idea."

Harper is expected to sign a lucrative long-term deal this offseason, perhaps exceeding the record $325 million mark that Giancarlo Stanton inked in 2014. And there are high-payroll teams that have been linked to interest in his services -- such as the Phillies and Dodgers, who reportedly claimed Harper off trade waivers last month before he was pulled back by the Nats when a deal didn't manifest.

At the very least, the Nationals will likely offer Harper a qualifying offer to retain Draft pick compensation. But whether the club even makes an offer in the ballpark that other clubs can -- and likely will -- extend remains a question, one that Harper is now clearly pondering.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper