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Bryce Harper is very interested in a number of teams, according to Scott Boras

Bryce Harper is very interested in a number of teams, according to Scott Boras

Scott Boras, the most famous agent in baseball and the man who represents Bryce Harper, held his annual press conference at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday, and Bryce Harper dominated the conversation this year.

It’s no surprise, considering Harper’s stature within the game, his impressive resume as a 26-year old free agent, and his long-rumored desire to become the highest-paid player in baseball history.

As someone trying to maximize Harper’s next contract, Boras was sure to refer to the star outfielder in glowing terms.

Historic. Generational. Iconic.

These adjectives are to be expected from an agent in Boras’ position. And, of course, Boras made all the right comments about Harper being open to multiple teams. The more bidders, the higher the bidding goes.

Harper taking such an interest in the business side of things was unexpected from many organizations, though.

“We’ve delivered literally well over two to three thousand pages of information to Bryce through this process. He’s a great student of the game,” Boras told members of the media on Wednesday. “[In meetings] They’re shocked about his understanding of the business model, franchise value, he’s very adept.”

Harper is making it a point to consider a multitude of factors during the biggest decision of his life. It’s a choice he’ll have to live with for years, and he is considering more than just money. Clearly, he’s taking the long view over a short-term outlook.

Boras even confirmed that their team was looking at farm systems for Harper’s respective suitors, to help envision where each franchise is headed and his client’s role within each organization. And again, Harper has been determined to be a part of this evaluation process. 

“We’ve given Bryce exhaustive reviews of every organization, he’s very studied of each, his evaluation when looking at it. He’s been very active in our dialogues discussing this with teams.”

Boras also acknowledged Mark Lerner’s earlier comments about the Nationals being discouraged about potentially bringing back Harper, though he was quick to emphasize that when GM Mike Rizzo says the door remains open, that fans and the media should pay attention.

The Yankees are another potential suitor whose recent comments have led fans to believe they may be out of the running, but Boras made it clear that Harper is still considering several franchises.

“Any free agent has goals about family and their value and the organization they play for. Bryce is open to a lot of different venues, it’s really about the owner’s commitment and what they want to do long term,” Boras told reporters. 

“I think Bryce is open to geography, what he’s looking for is ownership to make sure he has every opportunity to achieve his goals. Win a world championship, play on competitive teams every year, as best as teams can be competitive annually in today’s game, and a lot of owners believe their franchise can do that.”

The question is, does Harper believe these franchises can do it? Does he believe the Nationals can?

Boras, Harper and the Nationals have a great relationship according to the agent. And each party has a clear understanding of the other. It would certainly seem like Washington is still in the running to ink Harper, though that can be said of several different teams at this point. Not every team is operating publicly, either.

“This is not a race where every car is labeled. A lot of people want to keep what they’re doing private,” Boras explained. “Some clubs are more open and direct about what they’re doing, some clubs want a private process.”

The proverbial “mystery team” appears to very much still be in play here, and there’s no real timeline for when the decision will be made. Boras implied something could be one or two meetings away from happening, or that they could be weeks or even months away from finalizing a deal.

Wherever he ends up, Boras is confident Bryce will make a major impact, both with his play on the field and the interest he’ll drum up among the fanbase. He’s also a big believer in Harper’s presence in the clubhouse, even as a player not yet in his prime.

When asked about Harper’s leadership abilities, Boras suggested to a reporter that “maybe you should call Juan Soto and ask him about that.”

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Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

While Nationals fans are understandably disappointed Anthony Rendon is no longer a member of the Nationals, they can rest easy knowing he didn't see himself signing the the NL rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers never made an offer to Rendon, per The Athletic, after "sensing that he didn’t want to play in Los Angeles." He instead signed with the Los Angeles Angels, inking a seven-year, $245 million deal to play for the California team that receives considerably less media attention than its in-state rival.

Now entrenched in the AL on the other side of the country, Rendon won't face the Nationals very often nor will his team's play have any effect on Washington's playoff chances from year to year. It was a best-case scenario for fans after it became likely he wouldn't be returning to Washington.

After being spurned by Rendon and losing out on top free-agent pitchers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the Dodgers are still looking to make their first big move of the offseason.

There's still plenty of time for them to make a move, but Los Angeles can expect little sympathy from Nationals fans that Rendon won't be suiting up in Dodger blue for the next seven years.

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Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Here’s the list of players on the Nationals’ active roster who could play third base: Wilmer Difo, Jake Noll, Adrián Sánchez, Howie Kendrick, Carter Kieboom. Career major-league starts at the position: Difo, 29; Noll, one; Sánchez, nine; Kendrick, 25; Kieboom, zero. 

Such is the state of third base for the defending World Series champions. Not good. 

Which makes Josh Donaldson’s agent smile and any semi-skilled third baseman with a pulse a possible target. Possible trades? Count the Nationals in. On most. Not on Nolan Arenado. That’s a non-starter because Washington is not going to send assets (prospects) for a contract it was unwilling to give Anthony Rendon in the first place. Zero chance. Zilch.

However, Kris Bryant is more intriguing depending on the years and ask -- as always with trades. Beyond him and Kyle Seager, is there another third baseman the Nationals could pursue in a trade? The question takes on weight because of the aforementioned toothless list of in-house candidates and shallow free-agent talent pool beyond Donaldson.

Any trade consideration needs to begin with an understanding of the parameters Washington is working from. Last season, Rendon’s one-year deal to avoid arbitration earned him $18.8 million. When Washington looks at the cost for its next third baseman, the number will be similar to last season’s cost for Rendon. A bump in the competitive balance tax threshold, plus savings at first base and catcher, provide the Nationals wiggle room for increases in spots. So, $18-25 million annually for a third baseman is in play.

Second, the Nationals’ farm system needs to be taken into account. Their 2018 first-round pick, Mason Denaburg, had shoulder problems last year. Mike Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings that Denaburg is healthy and progressing. But, the early shoulder irritation for a high school pitcher who also had problems his senior year with biceps tendinitis provides his stock pause. He’s a would-be trade chip. So is Kieboom.

But, what is Kieboom’s value? What damage did it receive during his rocky, and brief, appearance in the majors last season? Did his potent hitting in the Pacific Coast League after being sent back mitigate his big-league struggles? 

Beyond Kieboom, the farm system’s next tier is manned by Luis Garcia, 2019 first-round pick Jackson Rutledge, Wil Crowe and Tim Cate, among others. Only Garcia is part of MLB.com’s top-100 prospects list (which is more of a guide than an industry standard).

So, when Bryant or Seager -- or anyone not named Arenado -- are mentioned, know where the Nationals are coming from. If they are positioned to take on money, they don’t want to use assets to do it (this is the Donaldson Scenario). If they can save money, find a solid player and retain the few high-end assets, then a trade could be in play (this would be the Seager Scenario, if Seattle pays some of the contract). 

The Bryant Scenario is the most appealing and challenging. He’s the best player of the group. However, acquiring him would be high-cost and short-term. Bryant has two years remaining before he can become a free agent -- with an outside shot at becoming a free agent after next season because of a grievance he filed against the Cubs for service-time manipulation. Obtaining him would likely focus on multiple pitching prospects.

There is no Arenado Scenario. Just a reminder.

Piled together, Washington is in a tough spot. What it has is not enough. What it needs will be costly.

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