As Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper stares down the final days of his pre-free agency baseball career, he’s finally beginning to open up a bit about the carnival that is ahead.
Harper’s impending free agency has had baseball buzzing for a solid two years now, with a great number of questions: Will he get more than $300 million? Where does he want to go? Would he re-sign with the Washington Nationals?
As fans have argued that he’s either completely overrated or — at a mere 25 years old — worth every penny, Harper has mostly been quiet, particularly this season. He’s chosen not to talk too much about free agency, or when he has to, he gives vague answers.
Only now, with the Nationals’ disappointing season just about over and with Harper’s potential final home game in D.C. coming Wednesday, is he beginning to talk about the decision ahead. He spoke at length with Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga and the morsel that might stick out the most: Harper said he’d love to stay with the Nats.
“I’ve always said: If I’m in those plans, I’d absolutely love to be here,” Harper said. “But if I’m not, there’s nothing I can do about it. There’s nothing I can do. I would love to play next to Robles or Soto or [Adam] Eaton. I’d love to. But am I in those plans? I have no idea.”
It’s a valid point: The Nats have to be willing to commit to Harper just as much as he’s willing to commit to them. The emergence of rookie slugger Juan Soto would seem to make Harper more expendable in D.C. The Nats still have Adam Eaton and another young star-in-the-making Victor Robles able to patrol the outfield.
That creates a very valid question: If the Nats have $300 million to spend, is Harper the most prudent way to spend it? The Nats obviously have other issues, considering they squandered a lineup with World Series potential this season and are barely a .500 team.
“I think about other cities, but I love it here,” Harper said. “Am I in the plans, you know? I don’t know. It’s hard to think about, because it’s all you know, and then you think about it, it’s like, ‘Well, it could all be over in a,’” and here, he snapped his fingers, “ ‘a second.’ It’s kind of crazy.”
Harper will have no shortage of suitors. The Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants teams that have been linked to him. The New York Yankees have been a presumed landing place for years. Someone will back up the truck to Harper’s house this offseason. It’s just a matter of who.
Harper is still young enough that he’ll be entertaining the option of signing a contract of 10 years (or even longer), which is part of what makes him so appealing in free agency. He’s already won an MVP, hit more than 180 homers, been an All-Star six times — yet he’s younger than Aaron Judge, last year’s Rookie of the Year.
But it sounds like the Nats have one thing in their corner that Harper seems to value: Familiarity. He likes his life in D.C., according to Svrluga, his routine with his wife, the places they go, the things they do.
“So when I talk about D.C., I get giddy. I get happy. Because it’s me. It’s what I know. I don’t know anything else. I don’t know what it feels like to play for the Dodgers. I don’t know what it feels like to play for the Yankees. I don’t know what it feels like to play for anybody that you look at. I don’t know!”
Bryce Harper should know this: The next few months will be a crash-course in getting wooed.
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