Quick Links

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 as he quipped himself, “Bryce 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.”

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

 

Quick Links

Nationals are receiving calls about Tanner Roark

Nationals are receiving calls about Tanner Roark

LAS VEGAS -- On Line 1 is a team interested in Tanner Roark.

They should be. Durable, trustworthy, rather effective, affordable. These are traits for Roark, even considering a down season in 2018.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has fielded inquiries on his 32-year-old fourth starter since signing Patrick Corbin. Other organizations wonder if the Nationals now have a pitching surplus. They don’t. For that reason, and the same ones that make Roark attractive to others, his final season before free agency is very likely to occur in Washington.

“Teams look favorably on a one-year guy that could help them,” Rizzo said. “We’ve spoken to a couple of teams about it, but nothing serious or imminent that’s happening at this point.”

Receiving a proper return would be difficult. Moving Roark would increase a risk of 2018 when the Nationals’ rotation picked up two injuries and went careening into a bad place outside of Max Scherzer. The high-end organizational depth at the spot is limited to non-existent. Washington will cross its fingers about Joe Ross or Erick Fedde in the fifth spot. It wants to move with assurances in spots 1-4. Dealing Roark undermines that idea. 

“We always talk about depth,” Rizzo said. “And to eliminate a pitcher like Roark, we would certainly like to strengthen that strength, if we were to make a deal for him.”

In other words, thanks for calling.

Taylor is wintering in the Dominican

Michael A. Taylor typically spends his winters in Florida. He’s spending a chunk of this December in the Dominican Republic, where he is playing winter ball.

Taylor knew at the end of a dismal offensive season he wanted to do extra work in the offseason. The plan was for him to get with hitting coach Kevin Long.

An idea came up: What about winter ball?

Taylor was reluctant at first. He’s entering his age-28 season with five years in the major leagues behind him. Going to winter ball is atypical for such a player.

But, there’s a lot to fix. Taylor’s voluminous strikeout rate and lack of overall contact have undermined his plethora of other abilities. The Nationals need him to make more contact so he can also be a problem on the basepaths. Taylor stole 24 bases in 2018.

The Nationals don’t expect him to be is a .300 hitter. Anything close to the .270 Taylor hit in 2017 would be more than fine. 

“Hopefully he hones down in his swing and puts the ball in play and help us out a lot,” manager Davey Martinez said. 

Martinez sees a path for Taylor to play quite a bit. Victor Robles will need breaks. Adam Eaton will need breaks. Juan Soto … not so much. But, that leaves room for Taylor to tag some starts as well as certain spot usage later in games defensively or on the bases. If his swing is improved, all the better for the Nationals. 

What is Corbin bringing?

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo watched Corbin for two seasons. What he saw was someone who adopted the gameplan born of analytics, added an effective off-speed pitch while shelving another, then turned into one of the top left-handed starters in baseball. 

“I think he was sent to the bullpen [earlier],” Lovollo said. “In '17 he started to develop a lot of confidence in a couple different pitches that he was landing at any time. And that's all that hard work that he's putting in behind the scenes to make good things happen.

“He believed in scouting reports. He believed in pitching plans that we put in place. And he was starting to have a lot of success that he carried over into 2018.

“When I first met Patrick, he had a lot on his mind. He was frustrated by a lot of things and maybe being a little bit misunderstood. I encouraged him to be himself and trust those around him. He did that. He had a couple of pitching coaches and really good catching corps that he developed a strong relationship with. And you could see it yielded very, very good results.

“So Washington is getting a very special player. We're going to miss him in Arizona. We knew that was a strong possibility that was going to happen.”

Interesting to hear is Lovullo suggesting Corbin wasn’t all-in with what analytics were saying about pitch selection. That changed after further conversations with the coaching staff. So did his results.

“I think at the beginning when we were bringing some new normals into the organization, the start of the '17 -- more specifically, in Spring Training '17, he was kind of resisting it and he was going to rely on some of the things that he was good at that worked prior to that point in his career,” Lovullo said. “But the more he trusted and began to develop relationships with very important people inside of that, inside of that pitching room, he started to see some really good results.

“So I know that, like I said, he delivered the pitches. He made all good things happen by him going on the mound and dialing it up. But he went out there with a lot of confidence, had a great plan in follow-up. Took some time for him to develop that relationship, and it became very powerful.”

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

 

Quick Links

Dave Martinez reiterates door remains open for Bryce Harper

Dave Martinez reiterates door remains open for Bryce Harper

LAS VEGAS -- This is not Davey Martinez’s kind of place. He’s more of a Tampa guy, maybe some Nashville. Not Las Vegas. He’s not in the desert to gamble or make the casino scene. Work brings him here, not some desire to burn life earnings during the offseason.

“Social gambler,” Martinez said. “How’s that?”

He’s able to make the rounds, at least. Martinez is 54. He entered the major leagues in 1986. Only four years since then have been spent outside of the major leagues. Which makes this event more of a chance to see old friends in the game. 

Work is limited. Mike Rizzo finished the majority of the roster before the Nationals’ contingent arrived in Las Vegas. Maybe they upgrade at second base. Maybe they add another veteran starter to the spring training mix. Maybe another bullpen option with the same line of thought. But, for the most part, Martinez knows what he will be working with in 2019. 

“Mike and I talked at the end of the season with ownership,” Martinez told NBC Sports Washington. “We sat down. Had a couple meetings. And Pat Corbin, all the guys we got were on our list and he got it done. It was a nice early Christmas present for me to get these guys and get this ball rolling.”

Martinez has harped on certain points since the close of the season. The Nationals need to be better fielders, baserunners and situational hitters. It sounds mundane, something that should be built-in at this level, but anyone who watched last season saw mediocre baseball being played. A throw to the wrong base. An extra base not taken. A double-play unturned.

“Last year we played a lot of one-run games,” Martinez said. “When I looked back and watched some of the replays of the games this past winter, it’s about not allowing teams 28, 29, 30 outs.” 

The Nationals will have days in spring training without hitting. Emphasis on fielding and baserunning drills will increase. They want to play faster and smarter. 

They also believe a healthy start is in place. Martinez said Adam Eaton’s leg continues to gain strength. Ryan Zimmerman’s body is in a good place. Stephen Strasburg is feverishly working out at Nationals Park. 

“As you know, last year when he got hurt and went down, our starting pitching took a beating a little bit,” Martinez said. “Hopefully, he comes back and he’s strong and he can get back and compete. If we can get Stras up to 25 starts, we’re going to be really good.”

Listening to Martinez hints at lessons learned from last season. In particular, his use of the bullpen. Sammy Solis made 30 appearances by the end of May. That matched his total from 2017. 

“I go back to the earlier part of last year,” Martinez said. “He was really good. He kept our bullpen stable. And I used him a lot. And I think at one point -- and I’ve heard this before -- I might have used him too much. What I see now, I’m going by what I saw earlier in the season in hopes that he comes back that guy. And then kind of use him in that role. Because he was really good. He was getting lefties and righties out. … I think Sammy has a lot of upside.”

The back of the bullpen remains structured the same as last season. At least in roles. Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal are a swap for Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Madson. Sean Doolittle maintains his spot as the closer. If he needs a day off, Rosenthal will step in.

That all leaves one enormous question.

“As you know Bryce and I have a special relationship,” Martinez said. “As a player, as a person, as a kid, I think he’s awesome. I love him to death, I do. Right now, we have to continue to move forward and try to get better. Not by any means, and I heard Rizzo say this and I feel the same way, that the door’s closed on Bryce. He’s got big decisions to make. Ultimately, he’s going to make the decision. And It’s tough. I know how he feels about his teammates, I know how he feels about Washington, but it’s a tough decision he needs to make for him and his family.” 

Life is easier with answers. Martinez has most of them for 2019. He, like everyone else, is waiting on one more.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: