The Washington Nationals reportedly used the last day of the 2018 regular season to make a "mega offer" to right fielder Bryce Harper, but he wasn't interested in accepting it and missing out on free agency.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the news, noting negotiations have not resumed since Harper rejected the offer. That leaves the door open for a number of other teams to pursue what figures to be one of the premier free agency targets of the entire offseason.
Harper has been with the Nationals his entire career since he entered the league in 2012 and has already collected a Rookie of the Year, National League MVP and six All-Star nods in his first seven seasons. He slashed .330/.460/.649 with 42 home runs and 99 RBI in 2015 on his way to the MVP.
He played a career-high 159 games and slashed .249/.393/.496 with 34 home runs and career-best 100 RBI during the 2018 campaign, marking his sixth season with at least 20 long balls.
Harper will surely command head-turning money on the open market, but he is just 26 years old and can be the face of a franchise and anchor an offense as it chases championships for a decade.
According to Joe Osborne of OddsShark, the Philadelphia Phillies are the favorites to land him at even betting odds, while the Chicago Cubs are second at +300 (bet $100 to win $300). The Nationals are third at +400, although the fact he turned down such a noteworthy offer doesn't bode well for the only franchise he's ever known.
The Cubs are in the middle of a competitive window, and Harper would provide a boost for an offense that was in dire need of support down the stretch as the Milwaukee Brewers passed them in the National League Central.
The Phillies jumped from 66 wins in 2017 to 80 in 2018 and are primed to compete with a major addition. Harper would represent just that in a major market that may not shy away from offering him significant money.