NATS NOT OUT OF HARPER MARKET
Interest in prized free agent slower than expected
Where is the market for Bryce Harper? Whose dog did Manny Machado kick?
And how smart-plus-lucky do the Washington Nationals look right now?
The Nats’ offseason Plan B — to rebuild their roster on the assumption free agent Harper would leave — now has a chance to become an amazing A-plus.
This winter the Nats have added Patrick Corbin, Yan Gomes, Kurt Suzuki, Trevor Rosenthal, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Barraclough, Matt Adams and, this week, Brian Dozier. What if Harper comes back to Washington, too?
What was unthinkable when the season ended, and kissed off as irrational by Nats principal owner Mark Lerner just five weeks ago, is now on the table.
All the unexpected twists in this offseason free-agent world suddenly have turned electric — for baseball, and especially for Washington.
For complex interlocking reasons, including (apparently) tepid interest from the glamorous bigmarket teams, the price for Harper and Machado may be $50 million to $100 million less than seemed likely in September when Harper turned down $300 mil-
lion from the Nats.
Now, the big-dollar players for Harper appear to be the Chicago White Sox, a franchise for which Harper won’t want to play because he’s sane. And the Phillies, who have absolutely nothing to offer that Washington can’t match or exceed, except perhaps a mountain of money. Harper already says he loves D.C., and knows he’s loved back. In Philly, they booed Santa.
On Friday, every Philadelphian of distinction, except Ben Franklin, reportedly went to Harper’s home in Las Vegas to woo him, including owner John Middleton, who has said that he’s prepared to pay “stupid” money to land Harper or Machado.
What if the Phillies offer $425 million, with opt-out years, earplugs for home games and right of first refusal if Philadelphia ever decides to sell the Liberty Bell?
Well, the Nats tried. They stayed in the game and maintained good relations. And they still can face their future with a big, fat grin with the team they now have. Their outfield would include prized rookie Victor Robles, a full year of Juan Soto and a fully recovered right fielder in Adam Eaton who has hit .300 as a Nat. And they can still add an economical fifth starter and one more decent reliever.
If, however, Harper looks at his old familiar Nats team, suddenly refurbished, and decides that he’d like to come back to D.C. for something on the order of $325 million to $350 million for 10 years, then that’s a deal that probably can get done.
Before the ink is dry, the Nats will be looking to trade Eaton, and his team-friendly contract, plus “others,” for one more significant pitching upgrade.
Oh, brother. If all that falls in place, we can start designing the statues of Ted Lerner and Harper that will probably be placed in front of Nationals Park someday, near Walter Johnson, Josh Gibson and Frank Howard.
It’s the Nats business how high they think they can go and remain a contender indefinitely. Visions of statues in front of Nationals Park will — and should — tempt them out of their comfort zone.
Just remember, never look a gift horse in the mouth. Especially if it answers to “Bryce.”