Washington Nationals: Handicapping the Bryce Harper sweepstakes

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ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 01: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals walks back to the dugout after a line out to first during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on June 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 01: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals walks back to the dugout after a line out to first during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on June 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia Phillies Bryce Harper
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 29: Maikel Franco #7 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates with Odubel Herrera #37 after hitting a two-run home run in the bottom of the second inning against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on September 29, 2017, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Philadelphia Phillies

Unfortunately for Washington Nationals fans, it’s the Philadelphia Phillies that take the top spot in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.

The Philadelphia Phillies have long been known to be interested in Bryce Harper as well as his fellow free-agent superstar, Manny Machado. The Phillies have kept their payroll low throughout their rebuilding process and they stand to reap the benefits from that this offseason.

Looking at their payroll commitments going into next season, according to Baseball Reference, they have a shade under $69 million committed to players currently on their roster, excluding arbitration-eligible players.

If you take a look at 2020’s payroll, that number drops to just under $51 million and could be as low as $31 million if Jake Arrieta opts out of the remaining 3 years of his contract.  Seeing as how their payroll has been as high as $177 million as recently as 2014, it stands to reason that they have a lot of money to spend this offseason.

The Phillies are ready to make a splash during free agency. In fact, Jon Heyman reported in mid-September that many executives think that the Phillies could land both Harper and Machado. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale then confirmed as much in an interview with Phillies owner, John Middleton.

It seems extremely unlikely that the Phillies would land both superstars, but it does show just how serious the Phillies are about getting over the hump and climbing back to the top of the N.L. East standings. If a team is going to be willing to go past $400 million on Harper, it will most likely be the Phillies.

Odds of signing Harper: 2 to 1

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