Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper chances unaffected by Patrick Corbin
By Blake Finney
After the Washington Nationals made the biggest splash in free agency with Patrick Corbin, questions emerged about the feasibility of signing Bryce Harper.
The Washington Nationals are not content to wait around and let their needs solve themselves this season. However, with the signing of Patrick Corbin, inevitable questions have now cropped about the future of Bryce Harper with the team.
The former Arizona Diamondback is set to ink a six-year, $140 million deal pending a physical with the Nats and become their latest frontline starting pitcher. The left-handers deal comes in at a hefty $23.3 million per season, which will be the figure that counts against that all-important luxury tax.
After yesterday’s deal, according to Cots Baseball Contracts, the Nats’ top three starters, Corbin, Stephen Strasburg, and Max Scherzer, are counting for over $77 million against the luxury tax. With the 2019 figure set at $206 million, it means that over a third of that figure is dedicated to those three players.
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In the Cots spreadsheet, which includes their own arbitration projections for those eligible this season as well as estimated player benefits and estimated 40-man costs, the Nats are set to be about $18.4 million under the threshold as things stand. There’s a lot that can change between now and when Opening Day, but it gives a rough estimate of where the team lies right now.
While Bryce Harper is likely to command potentially double that $18.4 million per season in his free agent contract this winter, it doesn’t look like the Corbin signing will prevent the team from pursuing their homegrown superstar. Reporters from around baseball seem to think that’s the case and that this doesn’t rule out Harper’s return at all, and you could even argue by strengthening the team that it may increase his odds of coming back.
In our latest podcast, Jamal Collier of MLB.com was of the view that Harper was completely independent of the rest of the team’s dealings. With the team’s need for a top-tier starting pitcher this offseason anyway, this had to happen whether the front office planned to bring their prized outfielder back or not, so it’s unlikely to change their plans.
The luxury tax factor can’t simply be ignored in the pursuit of the former MVP and it is still possible they can find a way to fit him under the threshold by trading away some other pieces. However, when you’re talking about a contract that’s likely to rewrite the record books, it’s entirely feasible, if not likely, that ownership has already considered going over the luxury tax threshold, should they decide to make a run at Harper.
The team knew that the Harper decision was likely to take a few months, based on Scott Boras’ previous dealings, especially for his biggest clients. So the key for the Nationals was to make sure that they were able to address all their other needs regardless of whether their superstar comes back. Now that they’ve done with the Corbin acquisition as well as bolstering catcher and the bullpen, they can truly consider where they stand on Harper.
Even when the Washington Nationals bring in a player of the magnitude of Patrick Corbin, they still can’t escape the shadow of Bryce Harper. With the Winter Meetings just a few days away, the pursuit of the outfielder could pick up steam quickly.