Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper, you’re on deck now

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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals warms up in the on deck circle during the home opener for the Nationals against the New York Mets April 05, 2018, at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. The Mets won the game 8-2. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals warms up in the on deck circle during the home opener for the Nationals against the New York Mets April 05, 2018, at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. The Mets won the game 8-2. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) /
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After Manny Machado agreed to join the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, it’s all over to Bryce Harper, but a return to the Washington Nationals seems unlikely.

A big domino fell in Major League Baseball on Tuesday afternoon as Manny Machado finally agreed to a deal with the San Diego Padres. Now all eyes turn to the Washington Nationals‘ homegrown outfielder, Bryce Harper, whose come into the figurative on-deck circle.

Rumors have been heating up throughout the long President’s Day weekend as speculation mounts over his decision. Hopefully, Machado’s signing should finally give us a resolution to Harper’s Bazaar, potentially as soon as Wednesday.

The Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox were both rumored suitors for Machado as both teams hoped to make a big splash this offseason. They now become instantly more desperate to secure the signature of the outfielder as the last remaining marquee player on the market.

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That obviously plays right into Harper’s hands as he continues to seek a record-shattering deal in free agency. According to former Nationals GM Jim Bowden, he’s set to break at least one prominent record with his upcoming deal.

“One thing’s for sure, Harper is going to get more than Machado,” Bowden said on CBS HQ before speculating that he could even top $330 million. So it seems almost certain that Bryce Harper will eclipse Machado’s new record for biggest free agent deal, while also having a good chance to net the biggest deal in baseball history if he beats Giancarlo Stanton‘s $325 million deal.

While the favorite, and the potentially odds-on favorite, is the Phillies, they seem to have publicly backed off of their “stupid money” mantra a little bit. Phillies GM Matt Klentak has repeatedly said recently that he doesn’t believe the offseason would be defined by whether they acquired Machado or Harper. But they’ve already set the expectations of the fans that high, too late to back down now.

That may open the door for the White Sox. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported their offer for Machado was for eight years and $250 million with up to $100 million in incentives and vesting options. Perhaps if they were willing to go that high for newest Padre, they could swoop in and beat the Phillies’ bid, as it seems as though Harper wants to avoid going to Philadelphia if at all possible.

The San Francisco Giants remain an enigma in the sweepstakes. They’re probably the team furthest from competing of those “in” on Harper, and now are suddenly in a tough NL West. But perhaps they view the outfielder as a way to accelerate a rebuild somehow while offering him a location on the west coast near his hometown of Las Vegas.

And finally, the mysterious Nats. They continue to downplay their interest in Harper, as Mike Rizzo alluded to on Sunday when he told Jamal Collier of MLB.com “I think we’ve filled all the gaps that we needed to fill. You never say never. You never say you’re done, but we’re really satisfied at this particular time in Spring Training with where we’re at and the roster we have.”

But the decision on whether to bring Harper back or not all boils down to ownership. Ted Lerner and Scott Boras have a fruitful relationship, and we need no reminding how many Boras clients have come to the nation’s capital. So it’s always tough to rule out a homecoming until he’s at his introductory press conference elsewhere.

Maybe the motivation of the former face of the franchise suiting up in the visitor’s dugout at Nats Park may sway Ted to fork out the required check. Rizzo would gladly accept Harper back if the funds are made available. His task was to create a roster that can compete without him, so bringing him home would be a fantastic final touch to his masterpiece. All we can do is wait and see.

Next. Previewing the Nats' position battles this spring. dark

Time to take those final practice swings. Body Like A Back Road is playing. Batter up, Bryce Harper. Your move.

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