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What if Bryce Harper re-signed with the Nationals?

What if Bryce Harper re-signed with the Nationals?

Bryce Harper told his wife, Kayla, he wanted to hear the Nationals’ offer. He figured he would return to Washington, the only place he played, and anchor himself there until gray started to creep into his famous follicles.

Then, he heard it.

It was lower than the original, chock full of deferred money, a lean on what had become a stagnant market for Harper’s services. The Nationals knew Harper would reject their initial offer to enter free agency. They knew he would reject their subsequent low-ball offer. They were only in for the brief optics of the idea. They were not steadfastly trying to retain Harper. He left for Philadelphia.

That’s reality. But, we’re here to play with alternative realities during “What if?” week. In this case, what if Bryce Harper re-signed with the Nationals?

First, picture the press conference: Harper sits down in Nationals Park, every local and national outlet is there, he reiterates his love for the city. He talks about raising children while working for the Nationals. His dad threw him pitches in the park just that prior summer. He hopes to do the same with his kids one day.

He’ll never be a free agent again. Harper’s time in Washington started when he was 19 years old. It will end when he is twice that age. Managing principal owner Mark Lerner will speak of Harper in paternal terms. Mike Rizzo will, as well. Scott Boras will pontificate. The media swath following the team will receive its typical jolt from Harper’s presence.

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The Nationals now have the best outfield in baseball. And, it’s probably not close. They combine for 86 home runs and 13 WAR in 2019. Harper is engaged on defense, making them the best defensive outfield, too. Between his arm, Victor Robles’ arm and Juan Soto’s growth, few want to run on them.

And the lineup is devastating. Harper replaces Adam Eaton as the No. 2 hitter. Trea Turner still leads off, Anthony Rendon follows Harper, and Soto follows him. Instead of having the best 3-4 combination in baseball -- like they did with Rendon and Soto -- the Nationals have the best 2-3-4 mix, and, when Turner is healthy, possibly the best 1-4. On the days Howie Kendrick hits fifth, the OPS of each player looks like this: .850, .882, 1.010, .949, .966. They crush right-handed pitching.

Eaton is gone. The cost control in his team-option-laden contract is appealing, but his recent play and health concerns undermine his value. He fetches three prospects, one of which is a catcher, the other two low-level pitchers. Washington’s farm system desperately needs an influx of both.

The math problems begin the following year. Harper’s huge contract limits the Nationals’ flexibility. They paid him and Patrick Corbin. Now, Rendon is leaving and Stephen Strasburg has opted out. Ownership decides they can’t bring on another enormous contract. Both leave.

Their departure begins to stir animus toward Harper’s contract. He wanted all the money when it was due and not in deferrals. The organization capitulated. They will have to maneuver around the cost for the next decade. Max Scherzer coming off the books in two years will help. The competitive balance tax annually creeps upward. Soto and Robles severely out-perform their low-level contracts, providing some flexibility.

Harper is a salve for Rendon’s departure. Instead of Starlin Castro hitting third, it’s Soto because Davey Martinez decides stacking lefties doesn’t matter when it is these lefties. Castro hits fifth. The first baseman du jour hits cleanup. Fewer questions about the offense follow Washington into spring training 2020.

Kids keep coming to see Harper. His voice in the game grows as he ages. He hides less from the media, lets his guard down a bit more, while also measuring his words. Jayson Werth counsels him on the side. Ryan Zimmerman and Scherzer help him navigate in the clubhouse day-to-day. Once those two depart, Harper is the top voice for the organization. When things are bad, he needs to answer, absorb blame, motivate himself and his teammates as much as the latter can occur in baseball. He’s the franchise face, for better or worse, the next decade.

Does he have a 2019 World Series title to rest on? Perhaps. The offense and defense (were he to play defense with vigor like he did in Philadelphia and did not in 2018) would both be better. The pitching staff would be the same because ownership went over the CBT this one time to take a maximum swing. It’s the following year when things become tough. And the next decade in D.C. baseball would belong to him, no matter what.

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Spelling error? Stephen Strasburg was nervous opening his World Series ring

Spelling error? Stephen Strasburg was nervous opening his World Series ring

It’s understandable that a player might feel an array of emotions when finally getting the chance to see their championship ring in person for the first time.

Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg opened his Thursday and while he was feeling nervous, it wasn’t because of the long road Washington took to winning its first World Series.

“It was very special to see,” Strasburg said on a Zoom press conference Thursday. “I got a little nervous at first because on the outside of the box it came in, my last name was spelled wrong. Luckily, it was spelled correctly on the ring, so I was pretty happy about that.”

RELATED: WATCH AS NATIONALS PLAYERS FINALLY RECEIVE THEIR WORLD SERIES RINGS

The Nationals unveiled the design for their World Series rings May 24, one year to the day after they began climbing out of the depths of a 19-31 start. However, players decided against receiving them until they could all do it together.

“It’s cool to see in person but I think I’ll be with Davey [Martinez] when I can actually put that thing on,” Nationals starter Max Scherzer said after the design was unveiled. “I think all of us, when we’re all together, when we can have that moment together, that’s the final piece to our championship and that’ll be an emotional moment.”

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Strasburg was the only player made available to the media after the rings were distributed, but he emphasized that the moment lived up to expectations.

“It’s pretty special,” Strasburg said. “You just look at all the little things they put on the ring to commemorate some of the big moments of the season and it kind of takes you right back to that moment. And they did a great job on it...Can’t wait to get it home to show my kids.”

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Will Nationals follow tradition with gold uniforms for home opener? One video suggests so

Will Nationals follow tradition with gold uniforms for home opener? One video suggests so

Thursday marked the moment Nationals players started to receive their World Series rings, something many have been waiting for since the final out in Houston back in October of 2019.

Adam Eaton was one of the players to share a video of his unboxing of the ring. An exciting moment to watch, there was something else caught on camera that looked very interesting: a new-looking Nationals jersey.

Though the top has the same traditional elements Washington's jersey has featured in recent years, a closer look will show that there is gold featured in the name, number and logo.

Eaton's video also shows off a Nationals cap that features the World Series trophy logo on it. Erick Fedde also added a crystal clear video of what the uniform looks like.

What could be the meaning behind these uniforms? While it has not been confirmed yet, it appears that Washington may be following a trend that has become the standard for defending World Series champions.

RELATED: NATS GET RINGS

In recent years, the team that just won the World Series will celebrate the home opener with a ring ceremony on the field. In addition, teams have begun wearing jerseys that featured gold elements throughout as a tribute to the Commissioner's Trophy. 

The trend actually began back in 2005 when the Red Sox celebrated their 2004 championship with special jerseys during the ceremony. But, they weren't worn during the actual game. That custom began in 2007 when the St. Louis Cardinals did it, and the Phillies did the same in 2009. Then in 2011 after the San Francisco Giants followed suit, it became something that every team has done since.

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The Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs and every other champion of the most recent decade has added some gold into their home design. Though nothing is confirmed just yet, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Nationals do the same.

If the jersey in Eaton's video is in fact what the Nationals will sport during the home opener, it will only make Opening Day against the Yankees that much more exciting.

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