The Washington Nationals may not re-sign Bryce Harper, but they certainly won't be on the outside looking in at the National League pennant race.
The Nats shook up the baseball world Tuesday afternoon when they inked Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million deal, according to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post.
The exact details of the contract are unknown, but Corbin gets a deal the same length as Yu Darvish's with the Cubs, only with an extra $14 million added on. That gives Corbin the 18th-highest AAV (average annual value) contract in baseball and the Nationals already boast Max Scherzer (6th) and Stephen Strasburg (10th) on that same list.
It pushes the Nationals' estimated payroll to about $196 million for 2019, which is only $10 million under the luxury tax.
That may make it impossible for them to go out and sign Harper to a megadeal unless the Nats front office can unload some major salary somewhere along the line, but Corbin certainly legitimizes Washington's playoff chances. On the other hand, bolstering the rest of the roster is a nice recruiting pitch to Harper as the Nats front office can prove they're all about trying to bring a championship to D.C.
A three-headed monster of Scherzer-Corbin-Strasburg in the rotation is absolutely incredible assuming they can all stay healthy (something Strasburg has not been able to accomplish yet in his career). The Nationals then roll out Tanner Roark and Joe Ross — who most certainly are no slouches — as their Nos. 4 and 5 options on the starting staff.
Even without Harper, the Top 4 in the Nats lineup still has to rank among the best in the NL with some combination of:
1. Adam Eaton
2. Trea Turner
3. Anthony Rendon
4. Juan Soto
The Nationals have been very aggressive this offseason, supplementing their lineup with a pair of veteran catchers acquired via trade (Yan Gomes) and free agency (Kurt Suzuki). They also picked up two low-risk/high-reward bullpen arms in Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough to work in front of incumbent closer Sean Doolittle.
The Corbin deal gives the Nats 25/1 odds to win the World Series:
That's bad news for any Cubs fans under the illusion the Nats would fade into obscurity without Harper.
The good news for the Cubs is the NL East may waste all their energy beating up on each other in the 2019 regular season as the Braves and Phillies are going all-in and the Mets just pulled off a big trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz.
That's a lot of talent headed to one division this winter:
Good thing for the Cubs they only have to play each of those teams 6-7 times a year.