Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper reached a milestone for the first time Monday night, and it might improve his bargaining power when he becomes a free agent at the end of the year. The Las Vegas resident achieved his 100th RBI for the first time in his seven-year career.
The closest Harper has gotten to triple-digit RBI was in 2015 when he finished the year with 99. He added 42 home runs and 118 runs scored, both career highs. He was voted the National League’s MVP.
After the feat, which was achieved with a sacrifice fly to left in the fourth inning of the team’s 7-3 victory over the Miami Marlins, Harper was humble about the accomplishment.
“It just goes to show how good the guys in front of me are, getting on base all the time and really grinding to produce runs and things like that,” Harper said. “Just a testament to how good this team is and how good our table-setters are at the top.”
Worth the Money?
The 25-year-old is expected to be one of the most coveted acquisitions in the offseason, though one internet sportsbook has the odds of him leaving his current team unlikely. The Nationals, along with the New York Yankees, are the favorites at +475, according to BetDSI. The Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, and Los Angeles Dodgers at next +785 The field is a puzzling favorite at +330, since no other team has expressed interest in Harper.
Whoever gets the slugger can expect to pay top dollar. Harper has been rumored to be looking for a deal in the neighborhood or $400 million or more.
One thing that might have general managers shy away from Harper has been his last two seasons. Last year he battled injuries, playing in just 111 games. Despite missing 50 games, he still managed to hit 29 homers and drive in 84 runs.
This year Harper was mired in what could have been the worst slump of his career. In one period in June he was hitting just .143, with one home run and 23 strikeouts. Despite the struggles, he still led the National League in home runs at the time. His demeanor earned the respect of the team’s general manager, Mike Rizzo.
“I think he’s shown the maturity and the class to be a good teammate, and [he is] more worried about the wins than the hits, and I think that’s an important aspect he’s learned throughout his career. He’s become a team leader for us, and when you’re doing your worst, you have to be at your best. I think that’s what Harp’s shown this season in the way he’s grinded through these struggles.”
Trade Bait, but No One Bites
Those remarks showed other teams how serious the team is on trying to retain Harper for next year. Before the All-Star break Harper was mentioned in trade talks with a couple of teams, but when the deadline came and went, there were no serious discussions.
Rizzo made that point emphatically clear on July 31st, when he Rizzo sent a message to the Washington Post that appeared to put an end to the possibility that Harper would be traded.
“Bryce is not going anywhere,” Rizzo said. “I believe in this team.”
Now Harper just has to believe in his bosses.