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Harper forgoes NatsFest with grievance looming

Case to be heard next week on slugger's eligibility for arbitration

WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was scheduled to attend NatsFest on Saturday, but decided against it because of a grievance hearing scheduled for the coming week.

"We are disappointed that he is not here, but he chose not to be here because of the grievance," general manager Mike Rizzo said.

But Harper gave his reasons for not attending the event. 

"I have attended NatsFest each year and always enjoyed my experience with the fans, but was unable to attend this year's event due to matters out of my control. I look forward to next year's NatsFest."

The case is about Harper's eligibility for arbitration. Harper's agent, Scott Boras, believes Harper should be arbitration-eligible this winter, while the Nats believe Harper should not be eligible until after the 2015 season. Both parties are still talking and trying to get it resolved before the hearing.

Harper signed a five-year Major League contract worth $9.9 million, including a $6.25 million signing bonus, after he was drafted. At the time, the deal was a record for a position player signed out of the Draft.

According to the Washington Post, Harper's representatives contend that an oral agreement was reached that Harper could opt out of his contract and be eligible for arbitration. The Nationals denied that such a deal was reached.

Since entering the big leagues in May 2012, Harper has won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, appeared in two All-Star Games and has helped guide the Nats into the postseason twice.

Video: Harper shows off long ball prowess during 2014 NLDS

This past season, Harper missed 62 games because of a thumb injury, but he was arguably Washington's best player during the NL Division Series, hitting .294 with three home runs.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper