Bryce Harper: Don’t count out a return to the Washington Nationals just yet

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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals walks to the dugout in the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on September 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals walks to the dugout in the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on September 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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While there is evidence the Washington Nationals may not be the favorite for Bryce Harper, they are far from out of the running for the outfielder.

The 2018 Winter Meetings have come to an end, and the offseason frenzy is in full swing. For the Washington Nationals, the Winter Meetings were headlined by a trade of starter Tanner Roark to the Cincinnati Reds, but all eyes were centered on Bryce Harper‘s agent Scott Boras.

When Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post asked Boras repeated the popular line that has been repeated time and time again by Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, “The door is open”.

Besides more quotes similar to that about other teams there was not much else we learned about the current free agent situation of Bryce Harper. Boras was candid in his answers and as always made sure to leave you with the idea that no team is out of the picture.

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Although we didn’t come away from this with much concrete information, it is clear the Harper situation is going to come to a head soon. That means it’s going to be decision time for the Nationals.

Look, as much as people love to connect Harper and the New York Yankees to each other, it’s fair to count them almost completely out at this point. If New York is going to spend big on a bat this offseason, it is going to be on Manny Machado, not Harper.

The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals are two other teams who have been linked to Harper this offseason, but these teams are just too restricted payroll wise to make a real run at acquiring Bryce Harper. So if you take out those three teams, that leaves you four real suitors for Harper. The Philidelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and of course, the Washington Nationals.

Now, this is purely speculation, but Harper’s market does not appear to have turned out the way Scott Boras has hoped it would to this point.

Everyone thought the Phillies were going to blow him out of the water with a huge deal, but they seem more focused on Machado, but also just gave veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen a three-year, $50 million deal. The Dodgers would have to move multiple contracts such as Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and others to free up money to sign the superstar.

Now let’s just think hypothetically here for a second. If the Phillies are more focused on Machado and pitching, and the Dodgers simply just cannot move enough of their big contracts to offer Harper a big-time deal, that leaves more likely than not the White Sox and Nationals as the teams bidding for Harper’s services.

Since free agency started the White Sox have arguably been the team that poses the biggest threat of stealing Harper from the Nats. Chicago has a ton of money to throw at him, plays in a location that Harper clearly enjoys, and boasts a top 10 farm system that indicates a bright future. While they may be tempting, it’s debatable whether Harper would truly want to go to a team that won just 62 games last season.

No matter what happens there is a belief that Harper and Boras will circle back to the Nationals once offers are in place and give them one final shot to make an attempt to keep Harper in the Nations capitol. If no team is ready to blow Harper away with a deal, Washington very well may be able to retain him with a contact close to what they offered at seasons end.

For the Nationals, the longer the Harper saga plays out the better. The team has to hope that the market continues to not be a strong as once believed before they can pounce. If the White Sox offered Harper a 10-year deal worth $330 million, for example, it’s fair to wonder if the Nats would really be prepared to let him walk away over an extra six or seven million a year.

The Harper sweepstakes figure to drag on for at least another two weeks, which will give Nationals ownership some time to think about their decision. If the Nationals are smart, they will not let their best player in franchise history walk away over a few million dollars a year.

This is a once in a generation talent that the Nationals have been lucky enough to have and they cannot let him walk away over being stingy over a few extra million dollars. Harper loves the city of D.C. and playing for the Nationals and has made that very clear. If the team was to offer him a deal close to what the other teams offer him there is a very good chance he would take the deal.

We are not just talking about any player here, we are talking about a guy who has a chance to go down as one of the greatest players in Major League Baseball history.  In the coming weeks, the Nationals need to come to this realization and realize they are still key players in this whole thing and can end it all by just upping their offer to Harper a little bit.

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They are clearly not the favorite but do not count the Washington Nationals out of the Bryce Harper running yet. If the organization realizes just how much Harper means to this team and decides to compensate him fairly, there is still a decent chance we could see number 34 return.

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