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Would Bryce Harper still be picked No. 1 in a 2010 redraft?

Would Bryce Harper still be picked No. 1 in a 2010 redraft?

Hindsight is 20-20 and also unfair.

Only want-to-be soothsayers work on draft day. The accuracy of their predictions -- and hopes -- becomes clear five or 10 years later, when inherent pressures of who to take at the time have evaporated and results highlight their mistakes or triumphs. No one is sure at the time.

Which brings us to this experiment in reworking the past and wondering who would be selected first in a 2010 MLB redraft.

The Nationals picked first in 2009 then again in 2010. Just a five-year-old franchise at the time, they put Stephen Strasburg in their pocket and were after a hitter next.

The eventual travails of the 2009 draft showed just how problematic having a high pick could be. Strasburg became an All-Star, a World Series MVP and one of the league’s best pitchers. Dustin Ackley, the second overall pick by the Mariners and someone scouts were unified on, has been out of baseball since 2016. The third overall pick, Donovan Tate, never made it above Single-A because of injuries and substance abuse problems. They are reminders there are no assurances no matter how much prep work is done.

The top choice was clear when heading into the 2010 draft. Bryce Harper was on the cover of Sports Illustrated the year before. The story labeled him the “Chosen One” and compared his future to LeBron James. For a developing organization, he was an obvious pick. Harper was 17 years old and the choice was not disputed at the time.

"We're going to take the rigor and the pressures of learning the position, the difficult position of catcher, away from him," Mike Rizzo said the day of the draft, "and really let him concentrate on the offensive part of the game and let his athleticism take over as an outfielder."

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Strasburg was set to make his major-league debut the next day.

"I can't remember where back-to-back years where there's two players that have separated themselves from the rest of the field," Rizzo said. "In that respect, it is very, very unique. I think it's a lucky time to have two No. 1 picks overall."

It was. And they hit them. But, what if they did things differently in 2010?

Manny Machado went third overall. Matt Harvey was seventh. Chris Sale was 13th. And, the most egregiously overlooked player in the first round turns out to be Christian Yelich. He was selected 23rd overall out of Westlake (CA) High School.

This experiment is less indictment of what occurred and more a look at what would happen in a do-over backed by a decade of information. And, in that case, Harper would not be the first pick. Or the second. Perhaps the third.

No one in the 2010 draft has better WAR numbers than Sale. That’s right. If the 2010 draft, with some of the game’s biggest names, was redone by WAR, Sale could narrowly be the first pick. If he wasn’t hurt the last two years, it wouldn’t be close (but injury is always an argument against taking a pitcher first). But, his reduced role helps level his playing time with Harper and Machado. Sale has played parts of 10 seasons. Harper and Machado have played eight. Harper has been on the field the most of the three. Sale was up immediately in 2010, debuting on Aug. 6, just two months after being drafted.

Sale had Tommy John surgery March 30. He won’t pitch until midway through 2021. Even if this were a regular season, and Harper or Yelich or Machado had an 8-WAR year and Sale didn’t play, he would still be the leader.

Here’s the breakdown by WAR (bWAR is baseball reference’s formula; fWAR is FanGraphs)

1. Sale: 45.3 bWAR, 44.5 fWAR
2. Machado: 36.7 bWAR,  33.2 fWAR
3. Harper: 31.8 bWAR, 35.1 fWAR
4. Yelich: 31.8 bWAR, 33.6 fWAR

Using WAR flattens the argument, and it’s never that simple on draft day. Playing (predominantly) corner outfield spots limit Harper and Yelich when compiling WAR. Machado operating as an infielder helps him.

Team needs are also a large influence. If you drafted Strasburg in 2009, do you draft Sale in 2010? Rizzo always said he thought starting pitchers were the key to success over a long season, as well as the postseason. So, he and the Lerner family paid hundreds of millions of dollars for them. Would they have been better off drafting Sale and spending that money on hitters?

It’s difficult to argue that even with Sale’s clear gap in WAR. The team was so full of holes at that stage -- Josh Willingham, Willie Harris and Elijah Dukes were the primary outfielders in 2009 -- it needed across-the-board help.

There’s also another consideration when it comes to team needs: Where can you create the biggest improvement? Replacing any of those three players -- particularly Harris or Dukes -- with an MVP-level outfielder creates a massive boost.

But, the numbers say a do-over would tell you to take the pitcher. Then the infielder. Then Harper.

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Astros cancel practice as staff member was potentially exposed to COVID-19

Astros cancel practice as staff member was potentially exposed to COVID-19

The Houston Astros have cancelled their Saturday workout as a precautionary measure due to a member of the team's staff having potentially been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced.

The person who tested positive is not a part of the Houston Astros organization.

"As part of MLB's testing and reporting plan, we were alerted that a staff member was potentially exposed to a COVID-positive individual outside the organization," Astros general manager James Click said in a statement. "Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled today's workout. We are working closely with MLB and our team physicians to follow the established testing and clearing protocols so that we can safely bring our players and staff back to the field as soon as possible."

This is the second time in less than a week that Houston has had to cancel a practice session. They were among the several teams who did not hold a workout on Monday after a lag in the previous testing left teams without results. The Nationals were also part of that group.

RELATED: INITIAL TEST RESULTS FROM MLB SHARED

MLB has been under fire as the league tries to improve its testing protocols. Besides the initial delay in results, there was a report that players flying in from the Dominican Republic were not tested. Six of those players are in the Nationals organization. 

On Friday, the league announced that between the two phases of testing, 28 teams have recorded at least one positive COVID-19 test, whether it be a player or staff member. 3,748 samples were collected during intake screening and 66 tests turned back positive—a rate of 1.8 percent.

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J.T. Realmuto, Phillies not close on deal. Could he end up in DC?

J.T. Realmuto, Phillies not close on deal. Could he end up in DC?

If one thing is for certain about the economic future of Major League Baseball, it’s that nothing is for certain. The league and its teams are in uncharted territory attempting to weather the fallout of a global pandemic that still has the potential to force the cancellation of the 2020 season.

One of the biggest question marks surrounds the outlook of the 2020-21 free agent class. Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto is set to be one of the most highly sought-after players available, but he’s hoping that he doesn’t even make it there. The two-time All-Star has had talks with Philadelphia about working out an extension, though there’s been little traction the last few months.

“We were in the really preliminary stages [of negotiations] early on in spring training before the pandemic and we haven't really gone anywhere since then,” Realmuto said in a Zoom press conference Thursday per NBC Sports Philadelphia. “There's no frustration…I understand the business of baseball. I'm here to play baseball and focus on this team winning and getting to the playoffs.”

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak offered a similar sentiment when he was asked about Realmuto’s future during a press conference 10 days prior.

"The landscape that we left in March is different from the one we return to now. We just have to see how that manifests itself in our discussions. We still love the player. We'd still love to have him in red pinstripes for the long haul. But there’s a lot of uncertainty in the game right now on a variety of levels. We just need to play that out."

If Realmuto does end up available in free agency, the Nationals would be a fit for his services. The team will lose half of its catching tandem next offseason when Kurt Suzuki’s contract expires, leaving Yan Gomes and a slew of unproven and unheralded catching prospects like Raudy Read, Tres Barrera and Jakson Reetz behind.

RELATED: GIANTS' BUSTER POSEY OPTS OUT OF 2020 TO TAKE CARE OF NEWLY ADOPTED TWINS

Even though Gomes is owed $6 million in 2021 for the final year of his deal, his presence likely wouldn’t preclude Washington from going after Realmuto. In fact, the interest is already there. The Nationals attempted to trade for Realmuto during the 2018 season when he was still on the Marlins but backed off after Miami demanded a hefty package that included Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom in return.

Realmuto was instead shipped off to the Phillies in the same offseason former Nationals star Bryce Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million commitment to play in Philadelphia. If the Nationals want to return the favor and pry the Phillies’ star to their corner of the NL East, then they’re going to have to convince Realmuto to leave a franchise that he enjoys playing for behind—just like the Phillies did with Harper.

“My opinion of the organization has not changed one bit,” Realmuto said on the Zoom call. “I love this organization. They've been great to me and my family since I showed up. From top to bottom, they're just good people and they care about baseball, and that's really important to me.”

Among those who want to keep Harper in Philadelphia the most is Harper himself. The star outfielder yelled, “Sign him” into an empty Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday after Realmuto hit a home run during an intrasquad game.

The biggest factor that would determine the Nationals’ level interest will likely be the money. Realmuto is expected to negotiate with the goal of resetting the catcher market. Given that the record for the highest annual salary for a catcher is $23 million set by Joe Mauer in 2010, the price tag won’t be cheap.

Washington will also have future contract obligations for its own stars to consider. Max Scherzer is a free agent after the 2021 season and Trea Turner will be so as well the following year. And even though they’re still young, Juan Soto and Victor Robles loom as potential extension candidates with only room to further raise their value.

Of course, this is all depending on the state of the league’s finances. Even though the season still has yet to begin, free agency is only four months away. Teams are bracing for significant losses this year even if the season goes on as planned. If Realmuto does hope to land a record contract, then he will be counting on teams deciding they’re able to afford a player of his caliber without most of their 2020 revenue in the bank.

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“It definitely concerns me,” Realmuto said of his outlook on free agency. “Necessarily not for myself, but it does concern me for the free-agency class as a whole. I mentioned a few months back that the top guys usually find a way to get their dollars. Teams are going to want them, you know. Maybe if it's not 20 teams that are in on you, now there'll be five to 10.

“I just think that a lot of teams will be able to look at this as a time to take advantage and actually go for it instead of backing off. As half the league will probably be trying to cut revenue and save some money and the other ones will look at it as an advantage to maybe go forward and press forward. I think that it could affect free agency as a whole, but for myself, I'm not really too worried about it.”

Realmuto could end up signing a one-year deal and waiting until more teams have recovered financially before pushing for a long-term contract. However, he would then face the uncertainty of the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring. Following an ugly and public back-and-forth affair between MLB and the players union over the financial structure of a 2020 season, a lockout remains a very real possibility.

There are many different ways these next few months could go for Realmuto. If he struggles during the short sample of 60 games that the 2020 season is set to provide, it likely won’t impact his value too much. But even if he goes roaring into next winter, it’s still not clear whether teams will be willing or able to pay him what he’s looking for.

That includes the Nationals, who have a lot of factors to consider but probably wouldn’t mind stealing one of Harper’s favorite teammates away from their division rival.

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