The deal came down to within the last minute, but it got done, and Bryce Harper has signed a $9.9M major league contract with the Washington Nationals. The high-school and junior-college phenom is likely the most touted signing of an offensive player since Mark Teixeira in 2001. Harper will likely play right field in the Nationals organization. His first stop will be the Gulf Coast League, as soon as possible, followed by the Arizona Fall League. Before that, though, Harper will come and spend a few days with the big club next week, including a possible BP session, and get acquainted with the concept of playing professional baseball day in, day out.
The Nationals spent just under $14M yesterday signing four of their top picks. Sammy Solis, and A.J. Cole, both starting pitchers, went for $1M and $2M respectively, and also signed pitcher Robbie Ray for $799,900. All told, the Nationals signed 25 of their top 26 picks, with just one deferring entry to finish college.
Nationals fans have a lot to be excited about at this point. Harper appears to be on the fast track to the pros with his major league contract, which immediately places him on the 40-man roster. Don’t expect to see him up in Washington right away, though, as he’ll be playing in the minors through his first two, perhaps three, seasons.
After a long night, the mood in the conference room at Nats Park was a bit cagey, as shown below:
That’s team president Stan Kasten giving Rizzo the whipped cream pie treatment, and following it up with the silver Elvis wig, reserved for the player of the game. On a night when there was no game, surely getting this deal done netted Rizzo the wig.
Harper’s addition to the roster in Washington is a huge victory for the club, both in terms of adding an big Louisville Slugger bat, and in terms of convincing Harper to join the last place Nationals. Harper’s season in the SWAC Junior College league, which uses only wooden bats, was nothing short of astounding, hitting 31 homers in 66 games (that’s a 76 homer season, expanded out to 162 games, folks) while batting .443 with an OPS of .927. I hope that he can develop into a mature force on the field for the Nationals in the coming years.