Washington Nationals don’t need Bryce Harper, but should bring him home
By Blake Finney
The never-ending Bryce Harper race continues, but even though the Washington Nationals don’t necessarily need him, they should still pursue him aggressively.
It’s now January 28th and we’re still no clearer to knowing where the future of superstar outfielder Bryce Harper lies. The Washington Nationals are already positioned to be a playoff contender without him, but that shouldn’t stop them from bringing him home.
The Nats’ current outfield projects to be made up out of Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and Adam Eaton. It’s good, and it’s probably a top five outfield in all of baseball, but bringing back Harper just gives a special feel to it.
Harper has teased about the “top flight” trio of him, Soto and Robles, representing an exciting, home-grown outfield for the Nationals. That would give you three players who could be potential MVP candidates in the primes of their career, all locked up for the foreseeable future.
It’s sometimes forgotten just how good Harper has been throughout his career. For example, he’s currently seventh among the active leaders in OPS+, right there with some of the best sluggers in the game right just behind Paul Goldschmidt and Giancarlo Stanton while ahead of the likes of J.D. Martinez and Freddie Freeman.
There are some out there who believe that Harper has “just one good season” in his career, and that is why he’s not worth a potentially record-breaking. But even when you take out his amazing 2015 season, he’s still a slightly better offensive force than both Anthony Rendon and Manny Machado in a similar six-year period. Pretty remarkable given that season that’s removed is possibly a top 20 season of all-time.
No, this doesn’t account for defense, an area in which Rendon and Machado clearly excel in. But Harper won’t be as bad as he was last year, both as he tried to stay healthy all year and was forced to play centerfield a lot more than expected. Also, he can afford to have a slight defensive deficiency when his bat is that special, especially when he’s only in a corner outfield spot.
But not only is it a big upgrade on the field, nobody needs telling about the effect that he has on the fans and community off the field. All you needed to do was look around Nats Park over the past seven seasons and see how many people have Bryce Harper and number 34 on their backs. He has a chance to continue to be the face of the franchise.
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But on top of all of that, it seems as though Harper’s only other legitimate suitor at this point in time is the Philadelphia Phillies. While losing Harper would be tough, it would be especially hard for fans to stomach watching one of their homegrown stars play against them in a Phillies’ uniform for potentially the next decade.
It would be even tougher for fans to understand if the outfielder left for the city of brotherly love on a deal less than the $300 million offer the Nationals put out at the end of the regular season. While it was just an educated prediction, that’s how Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post sees this whole saga ending. That would be heartbreaking.
The Lerner family appear to be one of the very few owners these days committed to spending enough to try and win a title year in year out. Yes, they would need to go over the luxury tax threshold to retain Harper, but it would be possible to get back under within a couple of seasons, making it financially possible to bring him back with only relatively small financial repercussions.
It would be a huge signal of intent to bring Harper back after years and years of the speculation about where he would end up as if it was inevitable that he would leave and truly enforce the Lerner’s legacy with the franchise. Now is the time to act. The timing is right. Please bring Bryce Harper home.
In all likelihood, Harper’s Bazaar will now extend all the way into February, but it has to end at some point. The Washington Nationals are far from out of the sweepstakes and there’s no doubt that, if given the chance, Bryce Harper would love to finish his career in the nation’s capital.