Although Bryce Harper is under contract for 2018, the Nats face a major hurdle if they want to keep their superstar beyond next fall.
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Nothing suggests Harper is unhappy. Avoiding his last arbitration year with a healthy contract is a great sign the two sides can hammer something out. But, Washington needs to assure him that those championship aspirations can happen here.
Ever since his arrival in 2012, some have counted the days until he bolts for free agency. Even if Harper stays in DC, here is a good chance he hits he open market to get that ballyhooed 10-year, $400 million deal. Wherever he plays in 2019, the cost of his services will be astronomical.
But, Harper has the chance to be for Washington what Babe Ruth was for the New York Yankees, be the transformational megastar Washington needs. A Harper extension would dominate the DC sports world in the way a championship would.
The key is convincing Harper the Nats can win a championship or two if he stays. His salary demands cannot impede Washington building a great team around him. Everyone knows New York, Los Angeles and Chicago can offer high money and championship baseball; so can DC.
How this plays out remains to be seen, but do not be surprised if Harper’s future settles sooner than later.