Nationals owner Mark Lerner says he doesn't expect Bryce Harper to return to Washington after telling the superstar outfielder that the team maxed out its offer at the end of the regular season.
Lerner told WJFK-FM 106.7 The Fan on Friday that he expects Harper and agent Scott Boras to take the best free-agent offer possible.
"I really don't expect him to come back at this point," Lerner said. "I think they've decided to move on. There's just too much money out there that he'd be leaving on the table. That's just not Mr. Boras' M.O. to leave money on the table."
Multiple reports said Harper, the 2015 National League MVP, rejected a 10-year contract worth approximately $300 million in September.
Lerner didn't discuss the exact offer that was given to Harper, but he said the Nationals couldn't comfortably offer more and field a competitive team around the six-time All-Star.
"When we met with them and we gave them the offer, we told them, 'This is the best we can do.' We went right to the finish line very quickly," Lerner told 106.7 The Fan. "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."
Even if Harper, 26, were willing to accept the previous Nationals offer, Lerner said he wasn't sure the team could now make it work.
The Nationals officially signed left-hander Patrick Corbin on Friday to a heavily back-loaded six-year deal worth $140 million. At a news conference introducing Corbin on Friday, general manager Mike Rizzo said the deal wasn't relevant to what might happen with Harper.
"I think they're independent of each other. I really do," Rizzo said. "We've gone about this business of creating a roster for 2019, and at the end of the day, we'll figure out whether that includes Harp or not.
"We thought it was good business -- we had to fix the things we needed to fix. Harp is a big part of our family and we'd love to have him back."
No timeline has been given for when Harper is expected to sign with a team. Harper is expected to receive the largest contract in free agency this year, and Boras is known for extending talks with his free agents past the holiday break.
"We feel very strongly we're in good shape," Lerner said. "It'll be a young, pretty incredible outfield defensively, and certainly with the bat, it's going to be special."
Corbin gets a $2.5 million signing bonus payable next Oct. 31 and salaries of $12.5 million next season, $19 million in 2020, $24 million in 2021, $23 million in 2022, $24 million in 2023 and $35 million in 2024 -- when he turns 35. The final year's salary includes $10 million that will be deferred without interest and payable on Jan. 15, 2026.
He would earn $500,000 for winning a Cy Young Award, $250,000 for finishing second in the voting, $150,000 for third, $100,000 for fourth and $75,000 for fifth, and the same awards for Most Valuable Player balloting. He would earn $100,000 for each All-Star appearance, $100,000 apiece for any Gold Glove or Silver Slugger, $250,000 for World Series MVP and $150,000 for league championship series MVP.
"We feel good about where we're at," Rizzo said about his starting pitchers. "We've got our big three. ... As you've heard me say many, many times: Pitching is king.
"We've allocated a lot of resources to our front of the rotation, and I think that elite starters, middle-lineup bats and back-end relievers is where I think you spend your money, and you try to get values along the periphery of your roster."
Rizzo has made a string of moves early in the offseason, adding two catchers -- one, Yan Gomes, attended Corbin's news conference, as did longtime first baseman Ryan Zimmerman -- and two late-inning relievers, in addition to Corbin, a two-time NL All-Star who was 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018.
If Harper has played his final game in Washington, Lerner said he will look back at Harper's tenure fondly.
"This was a special six years," Lerner said. "And he'll still be iconic in the city. When he comes in playing for another team, we'll do right by him and have a real ceremony. You can't be mad at him, and I don't think he'd be mad at us if we can't go any further."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.