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Bryce Harper and the Nationals could be headed to a grievance hearing next winter

Nov 16, 2013, 12:28 PM EDT

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Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post passes along some interesting (and to my knowledge, previously unknown) information on the unique contract arrangement between the Nationals and outfielder Bryce Harper and why it could lead to a grievance hearing next offseason.

Harper, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 draft, reached an oral agreement on his current deal less than a minute before the Aug. 16 midnight deadline to sign picks. The five-year major league contract, rare for a draftee, called for Harper to be paid $9.9 million, including a signing bonus of $6.25 million. However, the Nationals insisted that the contract not contain a clause that would allow Harper to opt out of the contract terms and into baseball’s lucrative salary arbitration system once he was eligible; Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, was equally adamant that the virtually standard opt-out clause be included.

Days later, the Nationals presented a final written contract that did not contain an opt-out clause. Anticipating the possibility that Harper, at the time 17, could reach the majors sooner than expected, Boras and the Harper family refused to sign it.

At that time, Major League Baseball and the Players Association took the unusual step of interceding with a compromise: a letter of agreement stating that, if Harper qualified for salary arbitration before he reached the end of the contract, a grievance hearing would determine whether he could opt of his contract.

Kilgore was able to get Scott Boras and two other people to confirm the details of the arrangement. This could all come to a head next offseason, as Harper will almost certainly qualify for arbitration as as Super Two player. His current contract calls for him to make $1.5 million in 2015, but he would obviously make a lot more if he was able to go through the arbitration process.

It’s worth noting that Harper remains under team control through 2018 no matter what, so the Nationals aren’t in danger of losing him anytime soon. However, playing hardball with his arbitration status could create some bad blood with someone who is expected to be a franchise player for years to come. Kilgore hears that the two sides have recently discussed the issue and would like to reach a solution. If anything, this could provide the impetus needed for talks about a long-term extension. You may recall that Boras hinted about the possibility of a 12-year deal back in August.

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