It appears we can officially chalk the Nationals off free agent Bryce Harper's list.
Nationals owner Mark Lerner already made an "aggressive" offer to their former star outfielder before he hit the free-agent market. But Lerner thinks, at this point in time, Harper is content leaving his old home behind to find a new one.
"Well, when we met with them and we gave them the offer, we told them, 'This is the best we can do,' Lerner told 106.7 The Fan FM in Washington. "We went right to the finish line very quickly. And we said, 'If this is of interest to you, please come back to us and we'll see whether we can finish it up.' But we just couldn't afford to put more than that in and still be able to put a team together that had a chance to win the NL East or go farther than that.
Mark Lerner on Bryce Harper: "I really don't expect him to come back at this point" pic.twitter.com/f2hIfL8X4v- SNY (@SNYtv) December 7, 2018
"If he comes back, it's a strong possibility that we won't be able to make it work. But I really don't expect him to come back at this point. I think they've decided to move on."
What Lerner said confirmed what many thought after he shelled out $140 million over six years to top free-agent LHP Patrick Corbin, who was introduced officially on Friday.
So what does this mean for the Mets? First, taking another team out of the NL East off the list is always a good sign. The Phillies are still a potential landing spot for Harper, though.
But even more interesting is the fact that new GM Brodie Van Wagenen has less competition if he decides to make an offer that Harper can't refused. Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said earlier this week that payroll "absolutely opened up," giving Van Wagenen carte blanche to continue his aggressive approach.
However, Van Wagenen told Mike Francesa on WFAN that he will need to be "really creative" to sign a player like Harper or Manny Machado. Both players are looking for a deal north of $300 million over 10 years or more, which is why SNY's Andy Martino doesn't see the Mets pursuing either.
There is still a chance Van Wagenen could shock the baseball world, and use his creativity to bring six-time All-Star to Queens. Wilpon said Van Wagenen has "his fingers in everything right now," so a potential deal can't be taken off the table.
As of now, the Mets' 2019 25-man payroll, accounting for expected raise via arbitration, is $135.9 million. That is down from the $150.5 million shelled out in 2018.