Relative to how big of a story it is both locally and nationally, there have been relatively few specific comments on Bryce Harper’s impending free agency from the superstar himself.
A few more of Harper’s thoughts were thrown out to the public today in a Washington Post article from Barry Svrluga.
In the piece, Harper both addresses his future and reflects on his past, and he repeatedly mentions that he loves D.C. and hopes to be in the nation’s capital long term.
These sorts of statements fall into the “what else is he going to say?” category, but that doesn’t make them any less true or meaningful. As Harper and Svrluga both mention, Harper really did grow up as both a professional and as an adult with the Nationals, and it’s natural to seek the comfort and familiarity of your first home away from home.
One comment iterated by many free-agents-to-be over the years is something along the lines of “I’d like to stick around, but that’s up to my agent.” It’s a sentiment that’s always bothered me. Your agent works for you, and you can choose to go to any team willing to offer you a contract. At the end of the day, it’s not up to anyone but the player himself (and, by extension, his family).
Harper didn’t make that quote today, but he did offer a variation. Multiple quotes from Harper include a desire to stay around, followed by the question of “am I in their plans?”
Let’s be clear. The *only* reason a player of Harper’s caliber wouldn’t be in a franchise’s plans is money.
Juan Soto is historically good at his young age, and Victor Robles is one of the few prospects in baseball with the talent to one day replace Harper’s production. Adam Eaton, when healthy, is one of the best values in the sport. The Nats have plenty of backup plans in place, but they are just that. Plan B’s.
Harper is one of the most naturally gifted baseball players in decades. He has an argument as the face of baseball, and he would be the face of all sports in one of the country’s largest markets if it wasn’t for Alex Ovechkin. He is the type of player on every team’s wishlist. He is a part of everyone’s plans. That is, everyone who has a chance of affording him.
I don’t begrudge Harper potentially chasing the most money, and it’s hard to imagine a player as competitive and confident as he is taking a smaller contract to sign with anyone, Washington included. It’s interesting to note that in the Washington Post article, Harper mentions just two other teams by name: The Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Also known as the two richest franchises in the sport. Harper is eyeing a massive payday, and he’s earned it.
The ultimate question isn’t if Harper is in the Nationals’ plans. The question is are the Nats in Harper’s plans?
Or rather, is the allure of their massive contract offer enough to top the allure of another franchise’s massive contract offer?
At the end of the day, the only person who will decide where Harper spends the rest of his career is Harper.
That’s the entire reason free agency exists. It’s up to him to sort out his priorities, and you can bet that whatever decision he ends up making, it’ll be one he’s thought on for a long time. Nationals fans should be happy for their homegrown star who has earned himself the right to make a boatload of money.
But he’s wrong when he says there’s nothing he can do. There is something he can do, and there’s something the Nationals can do. The only ones who have nothing they can do are the fans themselves. The only thing for them to do is wait with baited breath to see if the allure of “staying home” winds up being enough for a player of Harper’s immense talents.
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