Photo courtesy of NJ.com
By: Ross Sutton
As basically every baseball fan knows, Nationals superstar outfielder Bryce Harper is set to be a free agent this upcoming offseason. The early predictions in regards to how much Harper’s next contract will be worth have been astronomical at times, ranging all the way up to $500M. This storyline, along with the fact that the Nats have young and uber talented outfielders in their organization in Victor Robles and Juan Soto got me thinking. Would the Nationals really be in all that much trouble if they were to lose Bryce Harper to another team in free agency?
I am not sure where Bryce Harper will end up after signing what will surely be a mega contract this offseason. The Yankees were heavy favorites to land the superstar before they acquired Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins this past offseason. I believe the Yankees will make pitching their priority in the offseason as they already have an overcrowded group of outfielders in their organization. The Cubs have also been rumored to be extremely interested in signing Harper in the offseason, (who wouldn’t be) as Harper and Cubs’ star Kris Bryant are very close as they both grew up together in the Las Vegas area. Chicago already has a pretty large payroll though, so I am not sure they would want to give Harper the deal he wants in the offseason. My point is, it’s totally unclear what team Harper will choose to sign with this offseason, so the Nationals will need to be prepared for anything.
I think Bryce Harper is one of the most talented players in baseball right now and potentially losing him to a team the Nationals have competed against in the National League playoffs over the last few years would be a tough blow to recover from. That being said, if Nationals’ prospects Victor Robles and Juan Soto both pan out as very good outfielders in the league, I think the Nationals could be better off allocating the money they would have spent on Harper on other players that could make them a more complete team. One of the Nationals’ most valuable players over the last few seasons has been Daniel Murphy, and he is also a free agent at the end of this year. Murphy has not played yet this season due to a knee injury and is currently 33 years old. This could allow the Nats to sign Murphy to a deal that wouldn’t break the bank. The Nationals will likely want to allocate some funds to re-sign the teams’ very productive third baseman Anthony Rendon, who will need a new contract after the 2019 season. Since the Nats have Robles and Soto waiting to take over the teams outfield, I think Washington would be better off re-signing Murphy and Rendon as opposed to Harper. One of the weak points of the Nationals team in recent years has been the bullpen. So what if the Nats decided to go after a top tier closer in the offseason in order to fix that problem? This offseason happens to be an extremely good year to sign an elite closer, as Craig Kimbrel, Cody Allen and Zach Britton will all be free agents. If the Nats were able to sign one of these closers and went forward with an outfield of Robles, Soto, and Adam Eaton, then I think the team could still be a force to be reckoned with, even if Harper decided to sign elsewhere in free agency.
All contract information courtesy of spotrac.com
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