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Anonymous GM tells ESPN '$400 million is light' for Bryce Harper's next contract

Anonymous GM tells ESPN '$400 million is light' for Bryce Harper's next contract

How much did Bryce Harper's disappointing 2016 season impact his future contract? Not at all, according to one American League general manager who spoke with ESPN's Eddie Matz anonymously about the Nationals star. 

"Last year, he still had the classic walk rate, so you know things were happening positively for him, and you know there was something happening on the injury front," the executive said. "For two of the last three years, if he hasn’t been the best player in the National League, he’s certainly on the short list. He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s one of the youngest players in baseball, and he’s one of the most accomplished."

In May, Washington locked up Harper through the 2018 season with a one-year, $21.625 million deal. But after that, he'll be in position for a ridiculous pay day in free agency. 

The same GM who dismissed Harper's 2016 struggles also predicted his next contract would exceed the $400-million mark.

“Four hundred million is light. It's going to be more than that. If you could sign him to a 15-year contract, you do it. I would say something in the range of $35 million a year, maybe closer to the high 30s. It could approach 40 million dollars a year.”

MORE BASEBALL: 2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

The value of the deal depends heavily on whether Harper – who will be 26 when he becomes a free agent – would be willing to sign on for that many years.

Only one current player has a contract longer than 10 years: the Marlins signed Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year, $325 million deal back in November of 2014. 

The ridiculous projected price tag will make some MLB teams balk, and potentially take themselves out of contention for the 2015 NL MVP altogether.

Matz listed the Yankees, Dodgers, Nationals and Phillies as teams expected to make runs at Harper, but not the Cubs other than to say several unexpected suitors will inevitably join the bidding war.

Over the weekend, Peter Gammons reported that he's heard Harper is interested in joining the defending champs. 

A different AL general manager said club owners will ask why they should pay Harper significantly more than the next highest-paid player. 

“Some owners will bow out because they think becoming the highest-paid player should be sufficient,” the second GM said. “Having to go 10, 20, 30 percent above that is going to become increasingly challenging for people who are uber-successful businessmen.”

If these two general managers are correct, market value will decide Harper's contract, not return on investment through the length of the deal. 

But so far, Harper's 2017 production makes him look like a good bet for years to come. 

He's rebounded from last season's .234 batting average and 24 total home runs. Through 48 games, Harper is hitting .324 with 15 home runs and an OPS of 1.089. 

MORE NATIONALS: Rex Ryan sports Bryce Harper jersey in Nashville bar brawl

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Sean Doolittle reacts to Houston Astros’ sign stealing allegations

Sean Doolittle reacts to Houston Astros’ sign stealing allegations

All eyes in the baseball world are on the Houston Astros this week as they’re investigated for allegedly stealing signs using a high-powered camera in 2017 after The Athletic published a report Tuesday that included a former player of the team verifying the accusations.

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle weighed in on the scandal Thursday night on Twitter, posting a thread commemorating Mike Fiers and Carson Smith for speaking out before slamming teams who go around the accepted rules for stealing signs.

Doolittle and the Nationals faced Houston in the 2019 World Series; although there’s no evidence the Astros used these sign-stealing techniques against them, The Washington Post reported that pitching coach Paul Menhart ordered the pitching staff to use more complex signs in the World Series in order to combat any potential wrongdoing on Houston’s part.

The Boston Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount in 2017 for using an Apple Watch to steal signs from the New York Yankees, after which commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement warning teams “that future violations of this type will be subject to more serious sanctions, including the possible loss of draft picks.”

Major League Baseball is investigating the allegations, with no timetable given for a conclusion. For now, Doolittle has a suggestion for how to spend your time.

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Dodgers' Cody Bellinger wins NL MVP, Anthony Rendon finishes third

Dodgers' Cody Bellinger wins NL MVP, Anthony Rendon finishes third

Anthony Rendon’s night went as expected Thursday. He finished third in National League MVP voting. 

Los Angeles slugger Cody Bellinger won the award for the first time in his career. Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich was second.

1. Cody Bellinger: 19 first-place votes, 10 second-place votes, 1 fifth-place vote

2. Christian Yelich: 10 first-place votes, 18 second-place votes, 1 third-place vote, 1 fourth-place vote

3. Anthony Rendon: 1 first-place vote, 1 second-place vote, 24 third-place votes, 3 fourth-place votes, 1 fifth-place vote

Rendon finished his best season with a 1.010 OPS, good for third in the National League, and a league-leading 126 RBIs and 44 doubles. By any measure, Rendon’s performance in 2019 exceeded those of his past years. His OPS-plus, WAR, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and average were all career bests. However, those numbers were not enough to take the award from Yelich or Bellinger, both of whom dominated the league throughout the season.

Bellinger led the NL in bWAR and tied with Yelich in fWAR. Yelich led the league in slugging percentage and OPS. Despite his totals being truncated by a season-ending knee injury -- a foul ball cracked his kneecap Sept. 10 -- Yelich remained a premier choice for the award. 

His .671 slugging percentage was the highest in the National League since Albert Pujols delivered the same number in 2006. He also stole 30 bases. Yelich led Bellinger in multiple statistics: Adjusted OPS-plus, average, slugging percentage and OPS. The question for voters became whether Yelich missing most of September was enough to undermine his case for the award.

Bellinger significantly increased his plate discipline en route to his best season. Bellinger swung at strikes 70.4 percent of the time, boosting his overall contact rate by almost six percent. His contact rate on pitches outside of the strike zone also went up since his attempts at such pitches declined.

Defining “value” is always part of the MVP discussion. Los Angeles was the league’s best team during the regular season. So, without Bellinger, where does it stand? It is in very good shape, but likely not a 106-win club. Milwaukee won 89 games. Thirteen of those wins came during a September surge without Yelich. Should he be penalized for the team, as a whole, playing well after his injury? Voters had to decide.

Both made the postseason, which is also sometimes used as a voting marker to determine value.

Three other Nationals also made their way onto ballots. Leftfielder Juan Soto placed ninth with 45 points while starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer finished 17th and 23rd, respectively. Strasburg and Scherzer also finished in the top five of NL Cy Young voting, which was announced Wednesday night.

The award, of late, has been passed around. Barry Bonds dominated it with four consecutive wins from 2001-2004. Albert Pujols commanded it next, winning three times between 2005-2009. There has not been a repeat winner since Pujols won his third in 2009. Joey Votto won in 2010; Ryan Braun in 2011; Buster Posey in 2012; Andrew McCutchen in 2013; Clayont Kershaw in 2014; Bryce Harper in 2015; Kris Bryant in 2016; Giancarlo Stanton in 2017 and Yelich last year. 

Bellinger, just 24 years old, will receive his chance in 2020.

Matt Weyrich contributed to this report.

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