Bryce Harper gets record $21.65M in 2018, but free agency still looms – Yahoo Sports

The Washington Nationals have avoided at least one potential source of drama with superstar Bryce Harper, agreeing to pay him $21.65M for the 2018 season.

The team announced the deal on Saturday, which will cover Harper’s final season of arbitration eligibility. Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports adds that it’s the largest one-year deal ever for an arbitration eligible player. Harper can earn an additional $1M if he wins MVP.

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Harper is making $13.625M in 2017, which is up from the $6M he earned last season in the final year of his pre-arbitration deal. His $21.625M salary next season tops Jake Arrieta’s $15.637M salary, which became the largest arbitration salary last offseason.

In the big picture, the new agreement doesn’t really change anything regarding Harper’s future. He’s still slated to become a 26-year-old free agent following the 2018 season, where it’s likely he’ll earn another record contract in terms of guaranteed money.

It’s possible the Nationals are attempting a show of good faith after previously insulting Harper and agent Scott Boras in contract talks. That’s not likely to get far, especially with Boras. There’s no doubt he has his eyes set on negotiating a massive contract for his prized client that will likely overwhelm what most teams can offer, the Nationals included.

Speaking to the media on Saturday, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made it clear that talks were focused only on 2018, and not a longer term contract.

Rizzo’s comments won’t make Nationals fans feel any better about the prospects of keeping Harper in Washington beyond 2018.

If anything, it puts into perspective how important these next two seasons will be. The Nationals championship window may not entirely revolve around Bryce Harper, but he’s a big part of what makes them one of baseball’s elite franchises.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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