Bryce Harper and Nationals could be headed to grievance hearing

Jennifer Stewart

Harper and the Nationals could not agree on an opt-out clause when he signed after the 2010 draft.

When the Washington Nationals signed Bryce Harper to a five-year major league contract after the 2010 MLB Draft, the two sides could not agree on a key opt-out clause, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. The issue could bring the two sides to a legal dispute that could result in a grievance hearing.

Washington gave Harper nearly $10 million guaranteed to go with a $6.25 million roster bonus after making him the first overall pick of the 2010 draft. However, the team refused to give him a normal opt-out clause that Harper could exercise to get out of his contract were he to reach arbitration before the original deal expired. Harper, who will almost certainly be a "Super Two" player next offseason, would be set to make much more money in arbitration than he would if he stayed on his current deal.

Harper's agent, Scott Boras, and the Nationals could not come to an agreement on the opt-out clause as the signing deadline approached. To insure Harper signed, the MLB and Players Association helped form a compromise: The two sides signed a letter of agreement that if Harper reached arbitration before his contract was up, they would hold a grievance hearing to determine if Harper could opt out.

That scenario appears to be what the Nationals and Harper are destined for if there is no resolution in the meantime. The Nationals may choose to allow Harper to opt out in an effort to foster goodwill for any upcoming contract negotiations, or they could play hardball and make it difficult for Harper to get arbitration money sooner.

The Nationals could use the situation to discuss a long-term contract extension with Harper. Such a deal would likely be one of the largest contracts ever for an MLB player, particularly for someone as young as Harper.

Just 21 years old, Harper hit .274/.368/.486 with 20 home runs. He played in just 118 games while dealing with a variety of injuries.

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