In the midst of a rain delay during the Nationals’ final home game of the 2018 season, Harper — who’d gotten standing ovations in each of his four at-bats during the Sept. 26 game — was summoned to manager Dave Martinez’s office. But when he got there, according to the report, Martinez was not there. He was instead greeted by the team’s owners, Ted Lerner and son Mark Lerner.
The Lerners told Harper how much they wanted him to remain a National, and handed the star outfielder an envelope. Harper, with the game not yet called, declined to open it right away, stuffing it into his pocket.
When the rain persisted and the game was called in the eighth inning, Harper met wife Kayla in a hallway and together they opened the envelope. The Nationals’ offer: 10 years, $300 million, including deferred money.
Harper, according to the Post, said his thinking at the time was, “All right, cool. I got it. We can build off that. We can work off that,” thinking it was just the start of negotiations.
But, with Harper’s free agency dragging on without any other teams stepping up big, the next offer from the Nationals would not come for more than three months. The second offer was for more years but less money, sending Harper down the path that would eventually lead to his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies at the end of February.
Tuesday night, Harper will return to Washington for the first time in a major league uniform other than that of the Nationals. He will face two big tasks — corralling his emotions, and stepping into the batter’s box against longtime teammate and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.