Harper, Nats headed for grievance?

Bryce Harper has already proven himself not to be your average young ballplayer — Rookie of the Year, an All-Star in each of his two seasons — and he also doesn’t have your average contract.

The 21-year-old Washington Nationals outfielder is still on the five-year, $9.9 million deal he agreed to just before the deadline in August 2010 after being taken No. 1 in the draft.

However, The Washington Post reports that a letter of agreement attached to the contract — actually, it’s more like a letter of disagreement — gives Harper the right to pursue an opt-out when he reaches arbitration eligibility, which should happen after the 2014 season. Harper and agent Scott Boras would pursue that opt-out via grievance hearing.

Why such a potentially antagonistic route? The Nationals, having given Harper a contract that included a $6.25 million bonus, wanted to keep him out of baseball’s arbitration system as long as they could. So the Nats presented Harper with a deal that didn’t include an opt-out clause, which the Harper camp wouldn’t sign. Thus the letter of (dis)agreement and the looming dispute.

“We reached an agreement with MLB and the MLBPA memorializing that Bryce only signed with the Nationals on the condition that his rights were preserved,” Boras told the Post. “So, as planned when the issue arises, we will proceed under the terms of that agreement.”

If you hear this offseason that the Nats have reached a new, long-term contract with Harper, the possible grievance would be the impetus. After all, why get into a brouhaha that could sour the outlook of your young All-Star? And why have him play this coming season while facing contract questions?