The Washington Nationals held its annual NatsFest on Saturday, an interactive event for fans, but one key player missing was outfielder Bryce Harper, who did not attend the event, with a pending grievance hearing against the team scheduled for Tuesday.
"We’re disappointed he’s not here," Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters, per James Wagner of the Washington Post, "but he chose not to be here because of the grievance."
Harper released a statement on Saturday, per Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider:
"I have attended NatsFest each year and always enjoy spending time with Nats fans," he said. "Due to matters outside of my control, I was unable to attend this year. However, I look forward to attending future fanfest events."
At issue is Harper's contract status for 2015. He is due $1.5 million in 2015, the final season of a five-year, $9.9 million major league contract signed when Harper was drafted No. 1 overall in 2010. At two years, 159 days of major league service time, Harper would qualify for salary arbitration as a "Super Two" player, among the top 22 percent in service time of players with at least two years but not yet three years of service.
Harper and agent Scott Boras believe they verbally agreed to a clause in the contract that would allow Harper to opt out of the contract and into arbitration, though which Harper would surely earn more than $1.5 million in 2015. The clause, however, was not in the contract, so in 2010 the two sides agreed to address the problem later, if it arose, per Federal Baseball:
At that point, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association came up with a "letter of agreement" which said if Harper qualified for arbitration, "before he reached the end of the contract, a grievance hearing would determine whether he could opt out of his contract."
Harper, 22, hit .273/.344/.423 with 13 home runs in 100 games for the Nationals in 2014. The two-time All-Star is a career .272/.351/.465 hitter, averaging 18 home runs, 20 doubles and 10 stolen bases in his first three major league seasons.