|Did you catch Barry Svrluga’s column this morning arguing that the Washington Nationals should make a long-term offer to Bryce Harper? Like, as soon as possible? It’s provocative throughout, but here’s the paragraph that grabbed me the most:
This is a two-way street. Not only do the Nats have to want to keep their homegrown talent, but [Harper] has to want to stay. I believe he would be thrilled to do just that.
He would? Well, it turns out that Barry dropped a somewhat similar thought last week, a line that my pal Glenn flagged as gobsmacking when he saw it:
This is a complex and fluid situation, and I wouldn’t be completely blown away if Harper ends up a Nat for life.
So the question I was left wondering with went like this: Huh? Figured I would ask Barry.
These opinions, I believe, put you on the fringes of the conventional wisdom on the Harper question. Why do you think these things? And how do so many other people have it wrong?
The only reason I can think of that people have it wrong is a sort of Yankee-centric thread that people too easily get carried away with. Did Harper root for the Yankees growing up? Yes. Does his No. 34 add up to Mickey Mantle’s 7? Sure. Have the New York papers peppered him with New York questions for years? Absolutely. But that’s the extent of he-wants-out evidence, and it’s not evidence at all.
I think he would love to stay because he genuinely loves it here. It matters to him to play in an “important” city, and D.C. qualifies. He has his favorite restaurants, spots to go. It’s where he grew up professionally. Las Vegas will always be his home. But my belief that he would welcome Washington as a lifelong professional home comes from several conversations over the years.
I know you don’t want to put a number on this, but … just how likely is a deal? (HA.) Can you give me a fudged understanding? Would it still be a major upset? Should fans be on alert?
It’s the natural question, and a GM from another team asked me last week: Does he stay or go? It’s just so complicated. I put it this way: It’s more likely he goes than stays, because that’s a bet on 29 vs. 1 (though there aren’t really 29 other realistic landing spots). But if you listed each team’s odds, Washington would be the favorite.
The reason it’s complicated: The Nats can run out a competent, cheap (and potentially dynamic) outfield next year of Soto, Robles and Eaton. They have other needs. They may have other homegrown players they want to extend (Turner, Rendon), and they have money tied up in Scherzer and Strasburg going forward. But I feel like if Harper is open to doing a deal and the Nats actively say, “No thanks,” they’ll spend the next X years looking for a talent of his magnitude.
As we’ve been doing this, I’ve been reading responses on Twitter, and there are just tons of Nats fans who don’t want Harper even at the vague terms you propose. This is a reaction I’m sure we’ve both noticed for months. Your column makes the case for why those fans are wrong, but may I ask if you’re surprised how many Nats fans just aren’t interested in Harper for life?
I’m not necessarily surprised, because as you said there’s been kind of an underlying apathy – or, in some cases, hostility – toward Harper this year. I don’t really get that. Is it because they haven’t won a playoff series with him? Maybe. Is it because he didn’t run out a groundball in New York last month or occasionally doesn’t seem to go all-out defensively? That would be more understandable. I think, for players who are hyped even before they reach the big leagues, the standards can be impossibly high, so maybe some fans would say he hasn’t met expectations. I’d listen on that, and quibble. My point, though, is that Bryce Harper’s best years are likely ahead of him. The Nationals are in a unique position to try to make those best years in their uniform. The alternative could be having him hit homers against you. Why not go for it?