This was simpler than the last two years.
In 2019, Josh Harrison did not sign with a team until spring training games had begun. In 2020, he was coming off a hamstring injury in Detroit, which enabled teams to put him in a prove-it situation. After signing with, and being cut by, Philadelphia, Harrison latched on with the Nationals. Davey Martinez quickly embraced Harrison, and his return after the regular season via free agency seemed inevitable.
It was. And swift. Harrison re-signed with the Nationals on Oct. 22, less than a week after the regular season ended. He became the first step in reconfiguring the 2021 roster. Harrison was also the easiest move. He wanted to stay, the Nationals wanted him, the end.
“From the minute I was in D.C., the clubhouse, the coaching staff, it was a place that allowed me to be me,” Harrison said. “I know there were some injuries that happened there, but I knew a few of the guys from playing against them there. I was able to come in, have fun.
“Those guys let me be me. It was a good place to be. And when they came to me this offseason, I wanted to make it official. I didn’t really want to play around with the offseason. It’s been a crazy year, but at the same time it’s a place I enjoyed. I like the coaching staff, I like the players. For me, it really wasn’t a matter of seeing what’s out there, cause it was a place where I wanted to be. Even though my family wasn’t with me, I think my wife could tell the same. She talked to some of the wives. It was very organic. Was very happy to be here. And she’s excited as well as I am.”
Harrison fits multiple needs for the Nationals. His positional versatility is a benefit. He looked like his normal self with the Nationals en route to a 105 OPS-plus. Perhaps most important, his upbeat demeanor was welcomed by a team suffering through a sour season. The Nationals never had juice on the field in 2020. Harrison provided some on his own.
He is also aware of the recent perils associated with veterans in free agency. Harrison was among those in 2019 -- the winter of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado -- who suffered through stale months before they could find a team. Harrison went through a down year in 2018, when he finished with a .656 OPS. But, the prior four years showed him to be a more-than-competent big-league player who was twice named an all-star. Yet, he could barely find a job.
“[In] 2019, I was a free agent and didn’t expect to wait around as long as I did before I signed with Detroit,” Harrison said. “When I signed there, spring training games had already started. And that wasn’t due to me waiting around saying I wanted a three-year deal. That literally was the first offer I got. That was in that part of February. Last year, I’m coming off a surgery knowing I’m going to have to go somewhere and show that I am healthy. I end up signing with Philly, I think, the first day of free agency for me.
“My limited time [in Washington], it just felt organic with the coaching staff. Even the players. They made me feel welcome.”
There’s that word again: organic. The cliché about timing is applicable here. Harrison needed a job. The Nationals needed a jolt. Those factors applied during the season and again after it. So, here they are.
“If I really wanted to sit around and talk to other teams, I would have,” Harrison said.