Tim Murray

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Here's how the Nationals outfield could sustain the loss of Bryce Harper

Here's how the Nationals outfield could sustain the loss of Bryce Harper

If the Nationals can’t re-sign Bryce Harper, don't expect them to go searching for a high-priced free agent like Michael Brantley to replace him. 

(A note: This is still an if! We haven't closed the door on Harper staying in DC.) 

The Nationals already have a promising in-house solution if Harper walks: Victor Robles.

Robles is currently rated as the fourth-best prospect in baseball, according to MLBpipeline.com. Robles has played 34 games for the Nationals over the last two season including 21 in 2018.  His slash line this September was .288/.348/.525 with three doubles, three home runs, a triple, and 10 RBI.

Of course there's upsides to known quantities like Brantley - even if he comes with injury concerns: He hit .309 last year with 17 home runs and 76 RBI last season. In 2014, he finished third in American League MVP voting. He had a slash line of .307/.385/.506 with 45 doubles, 20 home runs, and 97 RBI. The following season, Brantley led the Majors with 45 doubles. 

If you can’t stand batters that strike out, Brantley is the guy for you.

In 613 plate appearances in 2018, Brantley struck out just 60 times. His 9.5 strikeouts per 100 at bats was tied for second-best in the MLB. By comparison, Harper’s strikeout ratio in 2018 was 24.3%. As a team, the Nationals finished tied for sixth in fewest strikeouts per game (7.96). Additionally, Brantley led qualified hitters in contact rate (90.9 percent) and swinging-strike rate (4.0 percent) in 2018. 

But even with all that, there's some question marks here if the Nats opt to swap Harper for a slightly lower-priced free agent: Brantley is a left fielder.

Over his career, Brantley has spent some time in center field but has not played there since 2015. What would the Nationals outfield alignment look like if they signed Brantley? 

Of the 112 games Juan Soto started with the Nationals this past season, all 112 were in left field. Adam Eaton’s strongest defensive position is right field. The likely answer would be move Soto to right field (where he played in the minors), Eaton to center, and keep Brantley in left field. Eaton was the Nationals’ Opening Day centerfielder in 2017.

So while a team like the Phillies may be looking to spend the money on an outfielder like Brantley, if Harper doesn't return, don't expect the Nationals to enter the market. 

At least not while their prospects look so promising.

MORE ON MICHAEL BRANTLEY

 

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Dez Bryant finally has a new home: New Orleans

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USA TODAY Sports

Dez Bryant finally has a new home: New Orleans

The long wait for Dez Bryant is finally over. He is now a member of the New Orleans Saints, according to multiple media reports. 

After eight seasons in Dallas, Bryant, 30, was released by the Cowboys on April 13. If Bryant had remained on Dallas' roster for this season, he would have responsible for a $16.5 million cap hit. 

The Ravens reportedly offered Bryant a three-year deal but he turned it down because he did not want to sign a multi-year deal. Baltimore quickly pivoted and signed Willie Snead.

In August, Bryant made an appearance on HBO's "Hard Knocks" when he visited with the Cleveland Browns. 

Cleveland reportedly offered Bryant a one-year deal with a base value less than $5 million. Bryant turned it down.

The "Dez Bryant to insert NFL franchise" buzz went silent for the past couple months until this week.

Bryant now joins a 7-1 football team that just handed the Sean McVay led Rams their first loss of the season on Sunday. 

Michael Thomas has been one of the top wide receivers in the NFL this season (2nd in receptions, 4th in receiving yards) but he is the only Saints receiver with more than 12 receptions (RB Alvin Kamara has 51, TE Benjamin Watson has 26).

Last season in Dallas, Bryant finished with 69 receptions for 838 yards and six touchdowns. 

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Bryant got his wish of a one-year deal.

It certainly feels like the Saints are pushing all their chips to the middle of the table to try to give 39-year-old Drew Brees another shot at a Super Bowl.

Regardless of success or failure, Bryant's return to Dallas on Thursday, November 29 should be very entertaining. 

Get your popcorn ready!

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2018 NFL Power Rankings: A new No. 1, injury-riddled Redskins fall

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USA Today Sports

2018 NFL Power Rankings: A new No. 1, injury-riddled Redskins fall

After a thrilling 45-35 Saints triumph over the Rams on Sunday, we have a new team atop the power rankings mountain.

CLICK HERE FOR THE WEEK 10 NFL POWER RANKINGS

The Redskins were handed multiple blows on Sunday. Not only did the 'Skins get blown out by the Falcons but Washington will now be without three starters for the remainder of the season. Because of that, the Redskins took a tumble in the power rankings. 

Despite Nathan Peterman giving his best effort, the Raiders putrid performance on Thursday night against the Nick Mullens and the 49ers allowed Oakland to retain the #32 spot for another week.

The NFL will always remain a week-to-week league so we'll have to wait and see what curveball they throw our week this week.

CLICK HERE FOR THE WEEK 10 NFL POWER RANKINGS

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