A tale of 2 futures: Nats with, without Bryce Harper

As the Washington Nationals report back to Spring Coaching, they face two starkly totally different attainable futures: one with, and one without their celebrity outfielder Bryce Harper.

It’s not a shock that the Washington Nationals will report back to Spring Coaching over the subsequent six days with out Bryce Harper. What’s shocking is that there’s still an opportunity he may be a part of them.

As Nats pitchers and catchers file into West Palm Seashore Wednesday morning, Harper continues to be and not using a workforce for the 2019 season and past. And while the club has attacked the offseason as aggressively as any group in baseball in preparation for his doubtless departure, there’s nonetheless some nonzero probability that Harper might return to the District. Whether he does or not could have ripple results on the roster not simply this yr, but throughout his contract; not just within the outfield, but all around the diamond.

Harper signs elsewhere

Of the five groups the BetOnline listed earlier this week as favorites to land Harper, the Nats have been last, at 10-1 odds. Whereas that’s not nothing, the chances — literally — point to him landing elsewhere.

At this point, it seems virtually sure that if Harper is in one other uniform this season, he’ll remain in the National League (the 4 other teams listed have been all NL squads). Whether or not he finally ends up with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Nationwide League East ought to offer a good deal of competition. The defending division champion Atlanta Braves gained eight more games than the Nats final yr, whereas the Phillies have added coveted catcher J.T. Realmuto and shortstop Jean Segura in trades, along with free agent veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen and reliever David Robertson. The Mets, when healthy, will nonetheless be a nuisance, particularly with their robust rotation.

As of right now, Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projections have the Nats at 89 wins, the Mets at 88, and both the Braves and Phillies at eighty five. Rotochamp has the Nats at 90, the Mets 88, the Phillies 85 and the Braves eighty two wins. For sure, with projections as tight as those, any variety of elements might flip these outcomes on their head, regardless of Harper’s last destination. However they should be aggressive.

Adam Eaton’s return alongside prime prospect Victor Robles and Rookie of the Yr runner-up Juan Soto provides Washington a full outfield already, if everybody can keep wholesome. The infield appears largely the identical as it did final yr, simply with Brian Dozier in Daniel Murphy’s spot at second base. The rotation is stronger at the front with Patrick Corbin within the three spot and the bullpen now consists of Trevor Rosenthal.

In all, this can be a group that shall be unquestionably weaker with out Harper, but that has fortified itself across the edges to mitigate a minimum of some of that influence. And keep in mind — Sports Illustrated picked last yr’s Nats to win the World Collection (again). While a few of the faces are totally different, the overall expertise degree of this yr’s club doesn’t…

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