Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper could play first base

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 11: Anthony Rizzo
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 11: Anthony Rizzo /

Washington Nationals superstar Bryce Harper has established himself as a solid outfielder. However, that shouldn’t keep him from experimenting at first base.

One of the most overlooked aspects of the Washington Nationals‘ roster is their abundance of defensive versatility. Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Adams, Daniel Murphy, Howie Kendrick, Wilmer Difo, and several other prominent players are capable of playing multiple defensive positions.

For a team with a history of being exceptionally injury-prone, this is an enormous asset. Dave Martinez also worked alongside Joe Maddon for the last decade, who is known to move players all around the field.

If Martinez and Maddon felt comfortable putting a pitcher in left field, you can bet that Martinez will get creative in DC.

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Martinez has taken advantage of the Nats’ defensive versatility throughout the spring, but there haven’t been any unorthodox experiments. That is, until Wednesday.

Before the Nats’ game against the Astros, Bryce Harper was seen taking reps at first base.

Amid speculation that Zimmerman is hiding an injury, this adds fuel to the fire. However, a possible first base experiment for Harper has no bearing on Zimmerman’s current status.

Although Harper may not see much time at first base, it is worth giving a shot.

Before last year, Zimmerman was just a shell of his former self. He battled countless injuries, which took an enormous toll on his body. However, he finally remained healthy in 2017 and returned to form.

In order to put Zimmerman in a position to succeed, the Nats must give him additional off-days and keep him healthy. Adams is a great backup, but Harper could get some reps at first as well.

Like Zimmerman, Harper is a great player when healthy. Unfortunately, they have both struggled while battling injuries in the past.

Obviously, playing first base is much less taxing than roaming the outfield. If Harper saw some time at first, he could spell Zimmerman and keep his bat in the lineup while taking a day off from the outfield. It would be similar to making a position player the DH in the American League to keep their bat in the lineup on their off-day.

Harper could also eventually become the long-term first baseman.

Zimmerman’s contract expires after 2019, but the Nats have a club option for 2020. Theoretically, he could be gone as soon as 2020.

If Zimmerman leaves or retires in the next few years and Harper re-signs with the Nats, he could take over at first base.

The Nats have an abundance of young outfielders, including Victor Robles, Juan Soto, and Andrew Stevenson, and having Harper in the outfield could block their paths to the bigs.

If Harper is still in DC after 2018, he is likely here to stay for a very long time. He will also probably sign the most lucrative contract ever, so the Nats would owe him a hefty sum.

For as much as they would be paying him, they need him to remain healthy and productive. A move to first base would make this difficult goal much more achievable.

Next: 5 things the Nats must do in 2018

The Nats have not spoken about Harper playing first base, so this may have just been him trying to pass the time until Opening Day. However, if it was a calculated move, it could pay huge dividends.