Nightengale: Nats 'never upped' their initial offer to Harper

The Nationals never raised their initial offer to Bryce Harper, Bob Nightengale told The Sports Junkies Monday, refuting a previous report by Jim Bowden.

"I'm not even sure (the Nats) have an offer on the table anymore, but they're making it pretty clear that, hey, Bryce Harper turned them down, which is his prerogative, and they went out and spent $190 million on other free agents," said Nightengale.

"Not sure that money is still there. They already have the three outfielders, they think they can win the division without Harper. They certainly have not upped their offer or anything like that. They've really had no interaction since right before Christmas."

Nats managing principal owner Mark Lerner previously told 106.7 The Fan's Grant & Danny the Nats' initial offer -- reportedly 10 years, $300 million -- which Harper turned down was the "best we can do."
Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post reported Jan. 2 Harper and agent Scott Boras met with Mark's father, Ted, for "for five hours on the Saturday before Christmas." 
Two days later came Bowden's report, which asserted the Nats had since offered "much more" than their initial offer, leading some to speculate Ted Lerner had done so at his meeting with Harper and Boras. 

#Nationals last offer to Bryce Harper was actually “much more than the $300m being reported by the media” according to a source. Apparently, The 10-year $300m offer was actually just the team’s 1st offer to Harper.

— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) January 4, 2019

Nightengale confirmed Harper and Boras met with Ted Lerner, but said Lerner's message to the pair was the same as his son's.

"They did meet with (Ted Lerner) before Christmas, and it was the same thing as Mark said: that was their offer, that was fair, it was only slightly deferred," said Nightengale.

"To re-sign Harper, (they)'re gonna go to a $230, 240 million payroll and over the luxury tax for the foreseeable future. So no, Nationals insist they never upped their offer." 

"And like I said, with the $190 million already spent, they may say, 'Well, you can come back, but you're gonna have to take a lot less than that offer was.'"

The Phillies are now the "clear-cut favorite" to sign Harper after meeting with the outfielder, his wife Kayla and agent Boras in Las Vegas on Saturday, Nightengale wrote in a USA Today column Sunday

"The Phillies have become the most aggressive team in their pursuit for Harper while the Nationals' interest appears to be waning. Nationals executives are now calling a reunion with Harper a 'long shot,'" Nightengale wrote.

"Nats officials privately say Harper no longer is in their plans, and unless Lerner changes his mind or Harper accepts a contract that pays him less than $25 million a year, they anticipate life without him."

And Philadelphia's presentation to Harper over the weekend, their first face-to-face meeting, made an impression, Nightengale says. 

"I think that meeting two days ago was huge, because the Phillies tried to sell him on, 'Hey, guys love playing here, they live here when they retire, that sort of thing. I'm sure they picked Jayson Werth's brain," he told the Junkies. 

"I think they were very persuasive that way, selling the city and the team to Harper."

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