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Breaking down the surprise new team that jumped into the discussion on Bryce Harper's future

Breaking down the surprise new team that jumped into the discussion on Bryce Harper's future

A new day, a new what-if for Bryce Harper.

Multiple reports stated Thursday he will be meeting with the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in his hometown of Las Vegas. Yes, the Padres, an organization that has averaged 72 wins annually since Harper arrived in the major leagues and has five playoff appearances to its credit during a 50-year existence.

Everyone would be right to consider living in San Diego. But why would Harper?

Location and lifestyle certainly fit. Access to his hometown would be readily available in a day. As previously mentioned, San Diego is San Diego.

Plus, the Padres have 10 prospects in MLB Pipeline’s latest top 100 list. That’s the most in the major leagues.

Which also means San Diego -- with or without Harper -- is not close to winning yet. Its top prospect, Fernando Tatis Jr., should be up this season. Others, like right-handed pitcher Chris Paddack or left-hander Logan Allen, also have a chance to be in the majors on Opening Day. That’s due in part to the Padres’ desperate need for more talent following a 66-win, last-place finish in 2018, their worst season since 2008, and the young players’ skill level.

The Padres also toil in the National League West, which is home to the two-time defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

Where San Diego lags is a tradition -- something believed to be sought by Harper as a piece of the total package -- a significant chance at a World Series title in his prime, and overall panache in the sports landscape for one of the game’s most marketable stars.

This meeting could also well be an attempt by Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, to stir a stagnant market. Spilling news about a new meeting Jan. 31 can reboot what had become a lagging, somewhat exhausted, topic. Boras can use this new wrinkle to strike back at any team that believed it could just wait to drive down cost. This is status quo for him. The question is how serious the Padres are or Harper would ever be about them.

As this moves forward, it’s also fitting to recall how Boras managed the Alex Rodriguez negotiations in 2000. Texas outbid everyone, some believe by twice as much, when gifting Rodriguez a record $252 million contract. Boras will always hunt a modern repeat.

Pitchers and catchers report in two weeks. Harper is linked -- in varying degrees -- to the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Nationals and now Padres. However, he remains unemployed and is likely to stay that way well after this conversation.

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Why is Trea Turner’s name on a replica Super Bowl trophy in the Nationals’ clubhouse?

Why is Trea Turner’s name on a replica Super Bowl trophy in the Nationals’ clubhouse?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Yan Gomes walked by a bright, silver emblem which represented his personal joy and has sat in the middle of the Nationals clubhouse as a beacon of trash talk this spring. He stopped, then rubbed his shirtsleeve over it to maintain its gleam.

At first glance, the replica looks precisely like the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And, it’s central location in the clubhouse makes it impossible to miss, which is the point.

“That’s Yan flexing on all of us,” Max Scherzer said, shaking his head.

The trophy is to commemorate Gomes’ fantasy football victory from last year. No one will disclose the cost to enter, but it’s steep. So high that the team split into two leagues last season: The A group, populated by well-heeled veterans, and the B group, who do not have the same cash.

Three names are on the trophy: Gomes, batting practice pitcher Ali Modami, and, in a late addition, Trea Turner.

Gomes and Modami were the co-owners of the winning team. Turner was added to the trophy via trolling tape. His name is hand written and spread across the bottom of the trophy’s base, beneath Gomes and Modami. Why? This is Gomes’ way of simultaneously mocking and thanking Turner for his contribution to the championship after he made a bad trade which vaulted Gomes and Modami to the title.

“I had three good running backs,” Turner said. “So, I traded Nick Chubb, who was doing great at the time, George Kittle, and Carson Wentz for Deshaun Watson, Keenan Allen and John Brown. I needed wide receivers, so I gave up one of my running backs and tight ends for two wide receivers, basically, but...shouldn’t have done it.”

Nothing was formal about the split between who was in the A or B league. No service time requirements or particular stats. It was more about making a financial decision. Erick Fedde, commissioner of the B league, considered his personal fate before choosing.

“I didn’t need my girlfriend killing me for spending a lot of money on fantasy football,” Fedde said.

So, he organized the B league, mostly populated by what he called the “swing guys,” who were mostly young at the major-league level or still in the minor leagues. Carter Kieboom, Tanner Rainey, Jake Noll, Tyler Mapes and Scott Copeland were in the league. So was Javy Guerra, Joe Ross and Austin Voth. Among the biggest challenges? Organizing the draft.

“It was so difficult,” Fedde said. “We were trying to make sure we got the minor-league season done or the big-league guys that were either called up or they weren’t flying. We had a big-league day game like two days after the minor-league season ended, so hopefully everybody was home by then. That was the hardest part. I remember we did our group chat, we did picking names out of the hat with all the guys who were in the big leagues at the time then sent the video to everyone who was down in the minors still. It’s a lot of work being the commissioner of that league.”

Fedde was in four fantasy football leagues last season. He, similar to Turner, became partly responsible for delivering a championship via ill-advised trade in the Nationals B league.

“I made the bad trade this year to the champion,” Fedde said. “Copeland won. I gave up Tyreek Hill. Traded him away because I was like 0-4 to start the year. I needed healthy players. That ended up biting the league in the butt.”

Turner tried to defend his decision-making, which flipped the A league in Gomes’ favor, claiming a bad start did not push him into a panic move.

“I still to this day, I’ll argue for it because I gave up a strength of mine to improve a weakness,” Turner said. “It just didn’t work out. I’m not mad about it. He thinks it’s so funny to put me on that trophy, but he just got lucky.”

Did Turner know he would be on the trophy?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Turner said. “He texted me as soon as he won. I knew that was going to happen. He’s having the time of his life. I’ll let him enjoy it.”

Gomes again walked by the trophy later Wednesday and paused for a minute. He shot a look across the clubhouse, then moved on. Turner lurked with revenge on his mind.

“Next season is coming up here pretty quick,” Turner said. “He’s going to have to redo it all again or else he’s going to be wearing it himself.”

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Mark Lerner ribs Davey Martinez after walking in on his World Series ring fitting

Mark Lerner ribs Davey Martinez after walking in on his World Series ring fitting

The Nationals haven’t seen what their World Series rings will look like just yet, but on Wednesday players and coaches were fitted for the highly coveted jewelry they’ll be receiving during their first homestand in April.

Manager Davey Martinez’s ring sizing was caught on camera, and an unexpected guest arrived as he was trying a sample ring on.

Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner had to poke fun at his skipper, saying, "Oh no, no, no. He's not getting one. He was never on the list.” Martinez wasn’t recognized by the ring specialist—something that wasn’t a first for him this offseason despite being the reigning World Series-winning manager—but settled on a size-10 ring for his left index finger.

The Nationals are set to receive their championship rings April 4 before their contest with the New York Mets that afternoon.

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