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PHOTOS: Pop superstar Ed Sheeran shows up at Nats Park

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PHOTOS: Pop superstar Ed Sheeran shows up at Nats Park

It's not often someone more famous than Bryce Harper shows up at Nationals Park, but that was the case on Monday, as international pop superstar Ed Sheeran stopped by while in town for two concerts set for the Verizon Center this week.

Sheeran was given a customized Nationals jersey by the team and met some of the players on the field before the Nats' series opener against the Baltimore Orioles.

Here are some photos courtesy of MLB's official Twitter account:

And here are a few more thanks to the Nats' Twitter account:

 

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Nationals GM Mike Rizzo still hopeful about re-signing Bryce Harper but admits it's speculation

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo still hopeful about re-signing Bryce Harper but admits it's speculation

Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo sounded a little more optimistic about the possibility of Bryce Harper staying in D.C. -- at least when compared with recent comments made by managing principal owner Mark Lerner.

On the last day of the 2018 regular season, the Nats reportedly offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million deal with no opt-outs, which the star free agent turned down. Lerner told 106.7 The Fan on Friday that the offer was the best the organization could do, and he did not come across as optimistic about re-signing Harper. 

Rizzo, however, doesn't seem like he's given up hope on Harper.

"I love the kid, the family loves the kid and he's a terrific player," Rizzo told MLB Network on Monday from the 2018 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. "We thought we made a market-value offer to him. It was a serious offer. 

"We wanted him to stay. We gave him five, six weeks to think about it. But when free agency started, we had to be in a position to allocate our money somewhere else and not wait on him. But again, we've never closed the door on Harp. He's a huge part for where we're at, and we love the player."

Notable players the Nats have signed so far in the offseason include key pitching free agent Patrick Corbin, catchers Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes and relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough.

MLBTradeRumors.com projects Harper will sign a 14-year, $420 million deal, which would be the largest contract in baseball history. 

Although that's significantly more than what the Nats offered the slugger, Rizzo acknowledged it's entirely possible that the market won't turn out to be what Harper expected and he could end up reaching back out to Washington. 

"I think he's interested in us," Rizzo continued on MLB Network. "He loves playing there, we love having him. The fan base just adores him. And there's a lot of speculation at this time, where he's gonna (land). 

"I don't think anybody knows, and maybe Harp doesn't even know yet where he's gonna go or who he's gonna play with. To ask anybody is just speculation, and I've been through this too many times and long enough where I'm not even going to speculate. We love him, and we're not closing the door on anybody."

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Nationals on periphery at Winter Meetings this week as they appear all but out on Bryce Harper

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Nationals on periphery at Winter Meetings this week as they appear all but out on Bryce Harper

LAS VEGAS -- Marlins Man walked into a modest eatery Sunday here in Las Vegas to look over the options. His bright orange jersey stood out among the cowboy hats and zombie-like Sunday exodus inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

While another Las Vegas weekend closed, sending an army of roller bags across the casino floor toward the exit and airport, baseball started to creep into the home of the 2018 Winter Meetings. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo wandered across the marble floor. Media members from cities across the country became situated. Television stations raised their studios and radio talkers began to ramble. Everyone is wondering if the show in Vegas will be filled with drama or just another stall along the way to the offseason’s biggest news.

We know Rizzo turned in his homework early. Patrick Corbin’s money and introduction arrived late last week. Corbin, presumably, is the Nationals’ largest offseason expenditure. Surprising comments from Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner to 106.7 The Fan on Friday made that seem to be the case. He described Bryce Harper as all but gone, speaking wistfully, if not definitively.

Which means Rizzo is here for smaller shopping and the rest of baseball waits on Harper and Manny Machado.

A look through the Nationals shows few remaining gaps. Rizzo publicly contends he feels all right about starting the season with a Wilmer Difo/Howie Kendrick platoon at second base. The outfield is clear without Harper. Joe Ross and Erick Fedde will fight for the final rotation spot. Two new catchers have arrived. The bullpen was upgraded. Rizzo didn’t wait and watch what other teams were doing.

“We like the club we have at present,” Rizzo told NBC Sports Washington last week. “But, we’re never satisfied. There’s tweaks and combinations we can go after. We’ll be looking for values out there. What works for us, how do we construct the periphery of the roster. You can never have enough pitching and we’re always on the look for good starting and relief pitching. That could be something we attack either via the free agent market or trade market.”

One thing the market remains full of is left-handed relievers. The Nationals currently have three. One of which is Sammy Solis.

Washington decided to tender him a contract and the sides reached a one-year deal. There was consideration not to tender him a contract, which would have ended Solis’ time with Nationals. Instead, he’s back despite two back-to-back poor seasons following a strong 2016. Last season was a wreck. Solis finished with a 6.41 ERA. The other two lefties, Sean Doolittle and Matt Grace, were excellent. So, are the Nationals in the market for one more left-handed reliever to be sure?

“We’ve got right now on the roster three really competent left-handed pitchers,” Rizzo said, “in Doolittle, Grace who had a magnificent season last year and Sammy Solis, who we feel is a bounceback candidate. We feel good about the left-handed spot. We feel good about our bullpen as a whole.”

The Nationals were mid-pack last season in relievers’ ERA in both the National League and Major League Baseball. Their bullpen does appear close to done: Doolittle, Trevor Rosenthal, Kyle Barraclough, Koda Glover, Grace, Solis, Justin Miller and Wander Suero are eight quick spots down there.

One upside here for Rizzo is he can wait. He doesn’t need to jump at the flush reliever market, which includes several decent left-handed options, because of the team’s prompt signings. A discount may arrive later. A factor to remember in regard to Solis is the Nationals would only be on the hook for 1/6th of his salary if they cut him in spring training. That’s a small penalty if someone in West Palm Beach appears more capable.

Washington also needs a left-handed bat off the bench that can play first base. Matt Adams, Justin Bour and Lucas Duda are names that could fill that slot. None will rattle the meetings.

This is life on the periphery, as Rizzo puts it. Will they talk to a lot of agents here? Yes. Will they consider an upgrade at second base? Of course. Are they part of the gigantic Harper and Machado storylines unlikely to conclude in Las Vegas but en route to dominate the conversation? Not really. At least not if Lerner’s public declaration is filled with flat facts. They offered Harper, he can do better elsewhere, and now life is quieter, even in Las Vegas.

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