Nats GM deflects question about Harper

Rizzo says he'll only discuss players on Nationals' roster

February 18th, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Few teams in baseball were as aggressive this offseason as the Nationals; general manager Mike Rizzo turned over nearly one-third of the roster in an effort to transform his club back into a playoff team. As he stood in front of his table at Grapefruit League media day at the Hilton West Palm Beach, he was more than willing to discuss any of those moves and the team he believes is ready to return to the top of a competitive National League East.
However, Rizzo was not willing to discuss his most prominent free agent, who still remains on the market, much longer than anyone anticipated. So, Rizzo swatted away a question about where the Nationals stand with , the 26-year-old star still without a home as camps are underway.
"We're going to talk about the players we have on the team," Rizzo said. "We're not going to talk about players that we don't have on the team."
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For weeks, Rizzo has refused to close the proverbial door on a reunion with Harper, noting how much of a connection he and the organization feel to the player and person. The Nationals made a substantial contract offer to Harper. A 10-year, $300 million deal extended at the end of the regular season expired once his free agency began. When Harper went to test the open market, Rizzo went ahead with his gameplan to overhaul the roster.
The Nationals acquired seven players -- , , , , , and -- and re-signed and . The roster should have more depth than in previous seasons with improved pitching and a massive upgrade behind the plate.
"I really like the roster that we've constructed so far," Rizzo said. "I think we've filled all the gaps that we needed to fill. You never say never. You never say you're done, but we're really satisfied at this particular time in Spring Training with where we're at and the roster we have."

Meanwhile, it appears there is finally some momentum for Harper to find a new home. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Sunday that talks between Harper and the Phillies are "heating up and intensifying," although he stopped short of saying a deal is done. Other interested teams have not been told they are out of the running, according to Heyman.
With each passing day, however, it appears more evident the Nationals have positioned themselves to move on from their homegrown star. To sign Harper, they would almost certainly have to exceed the competitive balance tax threshold, and they are committed to remaining below that number.
And the Nationals are happy with the team they have in camp. They know the National League East will be improved after the Braves, Mets and Phillies all made significant additions, but Rizzo remains confident the roster he built can be a winner.
"We like what we've done this offseason," Rizzo said. "We made a lot of moves because we needed to make a lot of moves. We lost a lot of players due to free agency and I think we've added some really good veteran presence with ability, guys who have performed in the past and guys that we think really give us a chance to compete for big things this year."