Tag: Bryce Harper

Manny Machado vs. Bryce Harper: Who Really Deserves MLB’s First $400M Deal?

Major League Baseball already has a $300 million contract. Its first $400 million contract could come soon.

Call it a hunch based on where Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are in their careers.

The Baltimore Orioles’ third baseman and the Washington Nationals’ right fielder have much in common. Both were elite prospects before they hit the ground running in the majors in 2012. Both have been among the best at their respective positions since then. Both are just 24 years old. And both are slated to hit free agency after the 2018 season.

Thus, the occasional buzz about one of them being baseball’s first $400 million man. Bob Nightengale of USA Today was the latest to float that figure over Harper’s head. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (h/t ESPN.com’s Kyle Brasseur) hung the figure over Machado’s head last summer.

The ideal scenario is for both of them to get $400 million, as Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs highlighted in 2015 how players weren’t getting their fair share of baseball’s revenue pie. Two $400 million contracts would go a longer way toward fixing that than just one.

But we must be practical. It’s likely that only one of them will break the $400 million barrier. Assuming that’s a matter of who’s more deserving, we must pit Machado and Harper against each other in relevant categories.



Upside, eh? Well, only one of the players in this discussion has authored one of baseball’s all-time greatest seasons.

Remember Harper’s 2015 season? Yup, that’s the one.

He led MLB in on-base percentage (.460) and slugging percentage (.649) and co-led the National League with 42 home runs. By OPS+, his offensive performance was the best since Barry Bonds in 2004. Baseball-Reference.com put Harper’s wins above replacement at 9.9—a mark that’s been reached only 61 other times among hitters.

Harper’s defining characteristics in 2015 were his advanced approach and his booming power. The former has roots in the 13.5 walk percentage he posted in the minors. The latter had scouts drooling even before he was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. Baseball America rated Harper’s power as a true 80-grade tool.

As such, Harper’s 2015 was less of a random flare-up and more of an inevitability. That was the player he was supposed to be—and, thus, could be again.

For his part, Machado is no slouch. He was worth 6.7 WAR in 2013 and found that same neighborhood in 2015 (7.1) and 2016 (6.7). The first time he did it, he was an otherworldly defender with a decent bat. He’s enjoyed the best of both worlds since 2015, averaging a 130 OPS+ and 36 homers while playing defense that, while short of otherworldly, is still great. Either way, we’re talking superstar-level stuff.

However, whether Machado can get any better is a good question.

Baseball America figured he would be only a 20-homers-per-year guy, so he’s already way ahead of those early power projections. His power did tick upward after first exploding in 2015, but not to a degree that suggests he has a bunch more in the tank.

The jury’s also out on whether Machado can amplify his hitting talent with increased patience. He took a big step forward in that department in 2015, lowering his swing and chase rates and drawing more walks. But that didn’t last, as his improvements regressed in 2016.

This is not to say Machado’s game can’t evolve. It’s just to say he seems to be what he is: a superstar for sure, but one without Harper’s upside.

Advantage: Harper



Upside is well and good, but what would a team with a $400 million contract offer in hand rather have: a guy who can be great, or a guy who it can count on being great?

Given the size of the bet being made, probably the latter, right?

So let’s confront the elephant that was stampeding through the room marked “Upside.”

Harper owns the best individual season of these two, but Machado is having the better career. He’s been worth 3.2 more WAR than Harper despite playing in 49 fewer games. He’s also topped six WAR thrice to Harper’s once.

There haven’t been wild fluctuations in Machado’s performance like there have been in Harper’s. If we line up their yearly OPS+ numbers, for example, we see a squiggly line and a relatively straight one:

On the whole, Harper’s career 137 OPS+ trumps Machado’s 117 OPS+. But based on the early portion of his career, how consistently Harper’s going to live up to his career mark is anyone’s guess. There’s nothing in Machado’s track record, meanwhile, that suggests similar peaks and valleys are imminent.

On the other side of the ball, Machado’s defense peaked in 2013, when he put up a 31.2 ultimate zone rating and 35 defensive runs saved. But on either side of that are well-above-average performances. In total, he’s been an elite defender through the lens of either UZR or DRS.

Harper’s defensive performance is tougher to pin down due to how much he’s moved around the outfield. He’s mostly been good, compiling a 17.4 ultimate zone rating and 24 defensive runs saved. But rather than maintaining a baseline of above-average defense like Machado has, Harper has had years when his defense has been rated negatively by UZR or DRS.

Bottom line: Based on their performances to this point, only one of these guys is a safe bet to be a great player in any given year.

Advantage: Machado



And now for the fundamental reason why Harper’s performances have fluctuated so wildly: The dude can’t stay healthy.

We got an inkling of that in 2013 and 2014, when Harper was limited to 218 games due to major injuries to his knee and thumb that were accompanied by a handful of nagging injuries.

The bright side at the time seemed to be that he could avoid further trouble by looking after himself on the field, which he vowed to do ahead of 2015.

“It’s more impact stuff. Hitting the wall, blowing the bursa. Sliding into third base on a triple and tearing my tendon,” he said of his injury troubles that spring, via Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. “So, this year, I’ll just play a little smarter.”

This paid off, as Harper played in 153 games in 2015. Nonetheless, it turned out his problems weren’t solved for good. Although he played in 147 games in 2016, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reported Harper was plagued by a shoulder issue that hindered him at the plate and in the field.

The black marks on Machado’s record are the knee issues he ran into in 2013 and 2014. A ligament tear in his left knee ended his ’13 season early. A year later, an injury to the same ligament in his right knee ended his ’14 season early. But then he came back and played in all 162 games in 2015 and in 157 games in 2016. In all, he’s played in more games over the last two seasons than just one player.

This is a comparison between one guy who’s not past his injury troubles and one who is. Neither is Cal Ripken Jr., but one is more Cal Ripken-y than the other.

Looking forward, Machado is no more likely to be beat up by third base than Harper is by right field. The list of guys who played regularly at third base after 30 and the list of guys who played regularly in right field after 30 look awfully similar.

Advantage: Machado


Survey Says: Machado

There are other factors that could be weighed here. Marketability, for example. Blockbuster movies need lead actors who look good on posters. All other things being equal, baseball teams prefer to operate similarly.

But that may be a moot point in this case because all other things aren’t equal.

Harper has the talent to be worth a $400 million contract. And while he’s only put that talent on full display just once so far, that could obviously change in 2017 or 2018. He has the ability and the time to shift the nature of the conversation.

But if things stay the way they are now, Machado is the safer bet for a $400 million contract. Even if he never gets any better, he’s good enough now and should remain good enough from both a talent and durability perspective.

Again, here’s hoping both land $400 million contracts. But if only one of them can, right now it’s clear who that one should be.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Bryce Harper Marries Girlfriend Kayla Varner: Latest Details and Photos

Washington Nationals superstar Bryce Harper married longtime girlfriend Kayla Varner over the weekend at the iconic San Diego Mormon Temple.

Harper shared an image from the ceremony on his Instagram page:

Wedding photographer India Earl also shared an image from the wedding:

According to TalkNats.com (via Emily Heil of the Washington Post), Nationals teammates Jayson Werth and Trea Turner were in attendance, along with general manager Mike Rizzo. Former teammate Ian Desmond also attended, per Sports Illustrated (via Fox Sports).

Turner shared an image from the proceedings:

Harper and Varner—who played soccer at BYU and Ohio State—had previously planned to wed in 2015, though the wedding was called off, per Heil. But Varner announced on Instagram during this year’s ESPYs that the pair were engaged once again.

Harper, 24, is coming off his worst season as a pro, hitting .243 with 24 home runs, 86 RBI, 84 runs and 21 stolen bases in 2016. Nonetheless, he remains one of the game’s most exciting young superstars and is a crucial pillar for a Nationals team hoping to return to the postseason in 2017.


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When Is Perfect Time to Trade Harper, Machado and Rest of Lauded ’18 FA Class?

The countdown to 2018 began a while back. Everyone in baseball could see it coming because the names were too big to ignore, the dollars too big to even imagine.

Bryce Harper. Manny Machado. Josh Donaldson. Zach Britton. Andrew Miller. All ready to hit the free-agent market the same winter.

Clayton Kershaw. David Price. Both have opt-out clauses that could send them into that same market.

The countdown is real, both for the players about to cash in and the clubs that dream of signing them. But the countdown is just as real for the teams that could lose them and get only the value of a draft pick (reduced in the new collective bargaining agreement) in return.

Decision time is coming quickly, and the choices those clubs make over the next 19 or so months could be every bit as important as the ones players and teams make two years from now.

Can they sign their stars? Do they play it out and hope for the best? Do they try to cash in and avoid the risk?

The result could be the biggest trading market ever, leading to the biggest free-agent winter ever. But if you’re a team that can’t sign your star, when exactly do you try to move him?

“Good question,” said a National League general manager who doesn’t have any of the biggest stars. “My guess is next offseason or maybe as early as this summer.”

Another NL executive predicted the Washington Nationals could trade Harper after the 2017 campaign and that the Baltimore Orioles could trade Britton. He figures the Orioles will hold on to Machado in hopes of signing him to a new contract.

But former Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd, now an MLB Network analyst, expressed doubt any of the biggest stars will be dealt. Their teams are trying to win now, he reasoned, and the return wouldn’t be big enough to justify a move.

“When your club has a chance to win, it’s very problematic,” O’Dowd said. “No matter how good the prospects are, they’re still just prospects. The new CBA makes it tougher too, because it’s harder to trade the impactful young players you’ll need to balance out your big contracts.”

O’Dowd and others believe teams will want to avoid the harshest luxury-tax penalties, which can rise to as high as 92 percent at the highest levels. The easiest way to do that is to have talented young (and thus cheaper) players to mix into your roster.

Top prospects will still get traded, as shown by the return the Chicago White Sox got this winter for both pitcher Chris Sale (from the Boston Red Sox) and outfielder Adam Eaton (from the Nationals). But the Red Sox got three years of control with Sale, who has a reasonable contract, and the Nationals got a potential five years of control with Eaton.

A team trading for a 2018 free agent now would have two years of control. But the only prominent class members who have come up in serious trade rumors this winter are Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen and Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier.

Neither has been dealt.

It makes sense for their teams to keep trying, especially the Twins, who have little chance of winning in 2017. The Pirates might do better waiting to see whether they can stay in the NL Central race and/or whether McCutchen can rebuild his value by bouncing back from a subpar 2016.

What about the others?

Some aren’t realistic trade candidates. Price and Kershaw pitch for teams aiming for a championship. Mark Melancon has a 2018 opt-out, but it’s in a contract he signed with the San Francisco Giants in December. They’re not trading him now and almost certainly wouldn’t move him next winter, either.

The harder ones to predict are the other 2018 free agents playing for going-for-it teams.

If the Orioles fall out of the race early, would they consider dealing Britton and/or center fielder Adam Jones, helping free up money to try to sign Machado? If the Toronto Blue Jays fall out of it, could they market Donaldson to a team needing a second-half boost? Could the New York Mets offer pitcher Matt Harvey to help fill other needs?

It’s hard to see the Cleveland Indians dropping too far behind in the American League Central, but what if they did? Could Miller be a midseason trade candidate for a second straight July? They might get even more than the high prospect price they gave up to the New York Yankees to get him.

Then there’s Harper, who will have just turned 26 when he hits the free-agent market. He’s a big part of the Nationals’ plan to win in 2017, but would they move him if they don’t?

Several executives said midseason 2017 trades could be the most realistic option for big-ticket free-agents-to-be.

“Teams can be desperate, and there aren’t free-agent options available in July,” one AL executive said. “And a team can trade for a guy knowing they can have him for two pennant races.”

With so many top players a year and a half away from free agency, the buy-sell decisions could be tougher and more significant than ever this July. Keeping a player until next winter could severely limit the potential return and thus make it less likely the player gets moved at all.

No matter what, July figures to be fascinating. Next winter could be interesting, as those same teams try to judge their chances of winning in 2018 against the risk of getting only draft picks back for departed stars.

It all leads up to November 2018, and the start of a baseball winter like none we’ve ever seen.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Scott Miller’s Starting 9: Bryce, Machado, Championship Coffee and Looking Ahead

A free-agent storm is on the way, some big names can’t find homes and some unintended victims of MLB‘s new CBA…


1. Forecast Two Years From Now: Nuts

Talk about attention deficit disorder. As free agents Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista go door-to-door asking, “Brother, can you spare a free-agent contract?” this winter, one reason things are moving so slowly is because even the industry’s executives are looking ahead to the free-agent class two years from now.

It may be the best ever: Bryce Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP award, will be on the market. So will Josh Donaldson, who won the 2015 AL MVP award. Manny Machado, who finished fourth in AL MVP voting in 2015 and fifth in 2016, is free. So, too, are starters Matt Harvey and Dallas Keuchel, and closer Zach Britton.

If that isn’t enough, Clayton Kershaw has an opt-out clause in his Los Angeles Dodgers contract that winter, as does David Price from the Boston Red Sox.

Harper and Machado will be entering the free-agent market at the age of just 26. Britton and Keuchel will be nearly 31, Donaldson 32, Harvey 29 and, if they use the opt-out, Kershaw will be 30 and Price the old man of the lot at 33.

Executives are making roster moves right now with an eye to 2018. It’s one reason why the Washington Nationals acquired Adam Eaton from the White Sox: They are leveraging themselves for the real possibility that they will lose Harper to free agency given that he is expected to demand a deal worth $400 million or more.

It’s why, other than the Aroldis Chapman signing last week, the New York Yankees mostly are concentrating on young talent and short-term veterans (like signing Matt Holliday to a one-year deal this winter for $13 million).

The executives know what’s up ahead, a winter unlike any of us has ever seen.

“As we bring more youthful executives into the game, there seems to be a tide to young players,” superagent Scott Boras, who represents Harper, Britton and Harvey in that group, said at the winter meetings last Wednesday at National Harbor, Maryland. “I think the information that is going to ownership is that those players who are 26-, 27-, 28-year-old free agents are very, very highly coveted.

“A lot of clubs have now marshaled their positioning to that age group.”

Every club is going to have money to spend for the foreseeable future, too, with the game expected to surpass $10 billion in revenues in 2016 once the final figures are in. Of course, without a salary cap and with different teams taking in more money than others, some clubs still will be far more equal than others. But the way Boras sees it, each club likely soon will have $200 million or more of revenue at its disposal before even selling tickets.

“Consequently, clubs who have the ability to attract a major superstar are going to be far more in than in prior times because of the success of the game,” Boras said.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman happened to be talking about his own free agent this winter, closer Kenley Jansen, but he could have been speaking about anybody in any year when he told reporters last week, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register: “The free-agent market plays out to the point of doing more than what you rationally want to do.

“If you do what you rationally want to do, you will finish third on every free agent.”

Who knows, perhaps there will be more fallout, too. The expiration of Machado’s contract coincides with the last year of Baltimore manager Buck Showalter’s deal.

“We’ve got control of him for two, two years?” Showalter said last week. “This year and one more. That’s when my contract runs out. Timing’s everything.”

Everyone laughed at the notion that Showalter could cruise on out the door with his best overall player before the Orioles are weakened immensely in the post-Machado term.

Of course, laughs come easy now, two years ahead of what for some clubs surely will be Armageddon. The laughing will be more difficult for a lot of people when the winter meetings come to Las Vegas (of course they would be there, right?) in December 2018.


2. World’s Greatest Athletes, MLB and…Coffee?

We already have Boras down as a staunch advocate of the free-market system. He long has been vehemently opposed to the slotting system for determining bonuses that can be offered to amateurs drafted each June. And in discussing his reaction to the new collective bargaining agreement, he not surprisingly expressed displeasure with the part of the deal that places a hard cap on international amateur signing bonuses that ranges between $4.75 million in the first year of the agreement to $5.25 million or $5.75 million.

Boras’ gripe: Baseball is waging a battle with other sports for the best athletes in the world, and with the new CBA capping the money available, he thinks those athletes will gravitate hard to other sports. Of course, limitations on signing bonuses take a bite out of the paydays of agents everywhere, as well.

“Most upsetting thing to me is that baseball only has so much earth where the game is played,” he said last week. “We only have a few cultures that really, there’s an opportunity to play baseball in the world. If you go back to the 1930s, the most popular sports in the United States were track and field, boxing, horse racing and baseball. Now, baseball’s included, but we have three other sports in hockey, football and basketball that have eroded the others.

“I think we have to be very cautious. If baseball’s not out pursuing the best athletes in the world, you’ve gotta really look at this and say, ‘What are we doing?’ I was raised on a farm and water’s valuable. If you want to save water and you don’t use it on your crops, you don’t have crops.”

In making his pitch, Boras mentioned not only NBA and NFL signing bonuses, but the college baseball landscape, too.

“We have a grand disadvantage in something out of baseball’s control, and that is the number of college scholarships [available],” Boras said. “We have 11,000 scholarships in football, we have 3,000 in baseball. And you have a young man who’s 6’6” and they need an immediate value. He’s 14, 15 years old and his family is looking for immediate value. He’s looking for a college scholarship or he’s looking for a bonus. And with baseball being last in offering those scholarships, our industry has to look ahead in getting the greatest athletes in the world.

“We have to consider that in how we compete with other sports. So when we get into CBA and even looking beyond that, we have to say as an industry, we’re making $10 billion, should we really build the Berlin Wall to youth? We just cut off the American players and limited them well below the NBA and NFL. And now we’re doing it with the Latin players as well.”

Boras doesn’t think much of the current luxury-tax system, either, in which high-spending teams are taxed a percentage of their payroll over a certain threshold (It’s been $189 million, it will rise during this CBA).

“Under the old CBA, I think the old luxury tax was the Center for Disease Control,” he quipped. “And now the luxury tax should be Starbucks. Because if you want championship coffee, you’d better be visiting there often.”


3. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Bautista

Whenever Joey Bats signs his free-agent deal, the anticipation is that he will quote actress Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance speech from years ago and exclaim to the signing team and city, “You like me, you really like me!”

By far, the most entertaining moment at last week’s winter meetings came when general manager Dan Duquette told the Baltimore Sun‘s Eduardo A. Encina that though Bautista’s agent reached out to the club, the Orioles wouldn’t even consider signing Bautista because, essentially, Baltimore fans hate him.

“That’s true,” Duquette said. “That’s true. The agent called and I said, ‘Really? Jose is a villain in Baltimore and I’m not going to go tell our fans that we’re courting Jose Bautista for the Orioles because they’re not going to be happy.'”


4. Ruffled Feathers of the Week

Angry that the Washington Nationals acquired outfielder Adam Eaton because the move likely meant the club would shift Trea Turner from center field to shortstop and himself to the bench, Danny Espinosa skipped the club’s annual Winterfest on Saturday.

By Saturday night, the Nationals had shipped Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels, who were in the market for a second baseman.

Meanwhile, at Pittsburgh’s PirateFest over the weekend, All-Star Andrew McCutchen admitted that the very public rumors that the club nearly had him dealt to the Washington Nationals this month can’t help but bother him.

“I’d be lying to you if I told you none of this bothered me,” McCutchen said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Stephen J. Nesbitt. “Of course it did. I’m human. If someone cuts you off while you’re driving, you get bothered. To have my name talked about possibly getting traded, yeah, of course that got to me.

“We all have these dreams of being something. My dream is to be a Pirate my whole career. My dream is still to win multiple World Series. We all have those dreams. Sometimes, with my name being popped up there, it did kind of make me think, whoa, those dreams could be altered a little.”

At age 29, McCutchen had one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting .256/.336/.430 with 24 homers and 79 RBI. The days of his 2013 NL MVP award seem further and further away. Among other things, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has talked to him about the possibility of moving to a corner outfield spot, likely right field, as his defensive metrics have declined as well.

“Andrew is a professional guy that I think keeps things in a pretty good place,” Hurdle said at the winter meetings last week. “I think it’s another part of his career that he’s getting to work through, walk through, and he’s got a great support system. That’s one of the things I shared with him, is there anything I can do to help lessen the distraction, to be there, talk, whatever.”

McCutchen is still young enough to resurrect his career. The 2017 season, wherever he is, will be enormous.


5. Unintended Labor Consequences

As part of the new CBA, the players’ per diem meal money will shrink to $30 per day from $105 per day because, among other reasons, each club now will be required to provide a clubhouse chef for players who increasingly eat in the first-rate clubhouses in the new ballparks.

While few folks are likely to feel sorry for the players, there is fallout that will hit the blue-collar ranks, and it is unfortunate: Clubhouse attendants stand to lose thousands of dollars annually in tips each summer. And ancillary members of a team’s traveling party, who don’t make nearly as much as the players and depend on the per diem as a way to supplement their modest salaries, are taking a hit, too.

Traveling media relations folks, for example, who sometimes work 18 hours a day during the season and average only between $40,000 and $50,000 in salary, qualify for per diem and because of this will lose some $5,000 or so in income.

Media relations directors can make up to $80,000 or $100,000 per year, but the vast majority of assistants who work 80-100 hours a week and are away from home half the summer earn only half of that.

Meanwhile, visiting clubhouse attendants who are in the $40,000 salary range and depend on generous tips to get beyond just scraping by will be hit extremely hard now, too.

Here’s hoping (but not expecting) that the individual clubs will move in to help ease the financial loss for the behind-the-scenes personnel who help make the game go but don’t share in the wealth. It’s probably too much to ask, but it’s the right thing to do.


6. Weekly Power Rankings

1. Christmas shopping: The hustle, the bustle, can put you in a foul mood more quickly than Orioles fans thinking about Bautista.

2. Edwin Encarnacion: So, can we show you some real estate in Cleveland, Edwin?

3. La La Land: Darling of the Golden Globe nominations announced this week, the musical tells the story of Corey Seager and Kershaw singing and dancing and wooing free agents Jansen and Justin Turner back to the Dodgers for another championship run in 2017. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are in there somewhere, too, I think.

4. Snow days: The absolute best, the Mike Trout of ways to get out of school. Even well beyond my school years, when I hear snow has caused school closings, wherever I am, I can’t help but smile and feel 16 again.

5. Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize: A no-show at Saturday’s ceremony in Sweden, he’s like the Manny Ramirez of the Nobel Prize ceremony.


7. Plus, 2017, too?

Lord over the peeps at your favorite watering hole or neighborhood basement with this one:

The answers: Koji Uehara closed out the 2013 World Series for the Red Sox, Wade Davis (just acquired from Kansas City last week), who closed out the 2015 World Series for the Royals and, of course, this year’s last-pitch thrower, Mike Montgomery.

Question now is: Can the Cubs win again in 2017 and employ relievers who tossed the clinching pitch in four of the past five World Series?


8. Chatter

• Yankees GM Brian Cashman may have awarded Chapman a record-setting contract for a closer at five years and $86 million, but he isn’t jumping for joy. The part he’s not thrilled about is Chapman’s ability to opt out after the third year, which is just when the Yankees envision having a chance to begin their next dynasty. “Oh, I don’t like it,” Cashman said during a conversation after the Rule 5 draft just before departing the winter meetings last Thursday. “It’s just, at the end of the day, I know that the competition we were up against were giving opt-outs in Years 1 and 2. So at least we were able to put it in Year 3.”

 The Tigers’ retooling effort is on hold. They did not trade J.D. Martinez, despite strong talk that San Francisco is interested. They did not deal Ian Kinsler, despite the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a clear need there. Justin Verlander stayed in Detroit while the White Sox traded ace Chris Sale. And USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale reported that Detroit GM Al Avila did not receive one phone call on slugger Miguel Cabrera, signifying that maybe Detroit will wind up keeping him and paying the $220 million owed him over the next seven years.

 With Ian Desmond in the fold and Mark Trumbo maybe on the horizon, the Colorado Rockies, who have endured six consecutive losing seasons and have not played in the playoffs since 2009, are spending money on free agents for the first time since Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle. Must be the Denver school system.

 The Dodgers are still in the market for a second baseman, and one intriguing question is whether new Twins executives Derek Falvey (president of baseball operations) and Thad Levine (general manager) will deal Brian Dozier following his 42-homer season. “As Derek and Thad have said, we have to be open-minded about just about anything that people would bring to us just to try to increase our chances of doing what we need to do both in the short term as well as going forward,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor at the winter meetings.

 Harper doesn’t have much time this month for all of the speculation on his price tag when he becomes a free agent in 2018 because he’s speculating on his own future this week: He’s getting married in San Diego.


9. The Devil(s) Made Him Do It

The Nationals’ Winterfest was highly entertaining over the weekend simply in calculating who wasn’t there. Angry Espinosa wasn’t the only no-show:

Duke basketball was bragging about its celebrity fan, too:


9a. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyric of the Week

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. Thanks for reading this year, thanks for making Bleacher Report such a go-to place and if you haven’t seen this Christmas video, you must (it’s Nobel Prize committee endorsed!).

“Who’s got a beard that’s long and white? 
“Santa’s got a beard that’s long and white.
“Who comes around on a special night? 
“Santa comes around on a special night.
“Special night, beard that’s white
“Must be Santa, must be Santa,
“Must be Santa, Santa Claus.”

— Written by Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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‘God Bless America’: Bryce Harper’s $400M Price Tag Could Be an MLB Game-Changer

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Here the winter meetings are, smack in the Washington Nationals’ backyard, and this might be where you can look out and see the end of the line for Bryce Harper in the nation’s capital.

We all know the total cost for Harper when he becomes a free agent following the 2018 season will exceed that of the White House, the Pentagon and the gross national product of the New York Yankees combined.

But when a “high-ranking Nationals executive” told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that the club is preparing for life after Harper following 2018, because his contract demands will exceed 10 years and $400 million and are far too exorbitant for the club, those numbers rocketed around the Gaylord National Harbor Convention Center on Monday like Fourth of July fireworks.

“God bless America,” quipped retired starting pitcher Jack Morris. “Apparently, Trump’s got this country great again.”

“Bryce Harper’s a great player,” Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw told B/R of the prospect of Harper and the Nats parting ways. “I think he’s going to be OK no matter what.”

“Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that the game of baseball keeps growing exponentially, to be honest with you,” Minnesota All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier said. “It’s very, very good for the game. You see it in a lot of teams, the revenues they bring in with TV and stadiums, everything. It keeps growing and growing, which is good for all of us.”

The ink on baseball’s brand new Collective Bargaining Agreement isn’t even dry yet, and already heavy speculation regarding one of the game’s best players needs a hose and some coolant.

Several current and former players were in town for a press conference and subsequent party thrown by Under Armour, which announced that, starting in 2020, the company will be the exclusive provider of all on-field uniforms, including jerseys featuring UA branding, for all 30 clubs. Though the company’s most flashy representative wasn’t in attendance, Harper certainly was there in spirit.

“That’s a lot of money but, obviously, Bryce is a young talent that doesn’t come around very often,” said Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman. “The money that’s around, the money you see Giancarlo Stanton get [$325 million over 13 years], those are game-changing players.

“Obviously, $400 million is a lot of money, but he’s put up an MVP, he’s young and he can do it all in every aspect. But to see someone get $400 million…it’s going to be interesting to see if he gets it. But it’s a tough situation because if you give someone $400 million, it’s tough to put together a team, you’ve got 24 other guys to field. I guess we’ll find out together.”

Some numbers always have sent imaginations soaring in baseball. Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs. Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in 1961. Ted Williams hitting .400 and Alex Rodriguez‘s groundbreaking $252 million deal with Texas in 2000. Times change, landscapes change and priorities change.

Now, with Stanton pulling down more than $300 million, a weak free-agent class this winter is stoking eager minds to look toward the class that will practically be encased in gold in two years. Following the ’18 season, Harper leads a group that also will include Manny Machado, Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones, Josh Donaldson, Zach Britton and Matt Harvey.

Short-term, the Nationals spent much of Monday working to acquire ace Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox and were still hard at work on that late into the night, according to B/R sources. This is a team that has won 95 or more games in three of the past five seasons and has yet to win one playoff series.

Two winters ago, the Nationals laid out $210 million for ace pitcher Max Scherzer. Six years ago, they shocked the baseball world by spending $126 million to make outfielder Jayson Werth the veteran centerpiece of a growing young team. Four years ago, they signed slugger Ryan Zimmerman to a $100 million extension. And last May, they avoided losing starter Stephen Strasburg to free agency this winter by signing him to a seven-year, $175 million deal.

This is not a club that adheres to a Draconian budget.

But the Nationals so far are giving no indication that they are willing to break records with Harper. Scott Boras, Harper’s longtime agent, texted Nightengale that his only negotiations with the Nats have been surrounding arbitration and a deal for the 2017 season.

“He’s going to get a lot because he’s a talent that’s once in a generation,” Freeman said. “You don’t get a talent like that to come through baseball very often. You hear about the Mike Trouts, the Stantons, the Bryce Harpers, you hear about those guys because they are so good and so big for this game.

“They’re going to set the bar for a lot of players, and if someone can afford them, they’re going to get them. He’s definitely a game-changer.”

During his 21-year career, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. earned roughly $71 million total, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He also famously played his entire career for one team, the Baltimore Orioles. Told that maybe he could have made $500 million playing today, Ripken chuckled, saying, “to me, it’s all relative.”

Regarding Harper, Ripken said, “I love his grit and determination. I think sometimes his fieriness makes opponents a little bothered with some of that stuff, but he’s a guy you want on your team. He’s very self-motivated.”

A lot can happen in two years, of course.

But on a Monday to fire up the Hot Stove at the winter meetings, the numbers seemed staggering…and, amazingly reachable.

“If he gets $400 million and all these guys are getting $300 million, $200 million, it’s incredible. Even what I got, I never fathomed I’d get something like that,” said Freeman, who signed an eight-year, $135 million deal in February 2014. “This game is growing so much, to be able to afford $400 million just shows how good and how far baseball has come to give someone that kind of money.”

“You gotta enjoy it while you can, man,” said Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips. “This is a dream, and one day you’ll wake up.”

Morris has just one question for Harper, and it pertains to the man who served as executive director of the MLB Players Association from 1966-1982: “Does he know who Marvin Miller is?

“If he knows who Marvin Miller is, God bless him. If he doesn’t, I’m ashamed of him.”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Bryce Harper Contract: Latest News, Rumors on OF’s Negotiations with Nationals

Although Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper is under team control for the next two seasons, speculation is already running rampant as to his future in the nation’s capital beyond the 2018 campaign. 

Continue for updates.

Latest on Negotiations Between Harper, Nationals

Monday, Dec. 5

On Monday, USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale reported Harper is looking to get a deal for 10-plus years worth more than $400 million—terms the Nationals are unwilling to meet at this stage.

Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, refuted the report, per Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan: “I have had no discussions with the Nationals regarding Harp and a long-term contract.”

Harper’s request for a contract totaling over $400 million wouldn’t be all that surprising. An MLB star is bound to cross that threshold sooner or later after Giancarlo Stanton re-signed with the Miami Marlins for $325 million over 13 years in 2014.

Harper, who turns 26 in two years, will be in the prime of his career, thus sitting in a position to demand one of the richest deals in baseball history, whether it’s with the Nationals or another team.

By his standards, Harper is coming off a disappointing 2016. A year after winning the National League‘s MVP award, he batted .243 with 24 home runs and 86 RBI. His slugging percentage dropped from .649 in 2015 to .441.

Despite his issues at the plate, Harper would likely be able to name his price in free agency should he rebound in 2017 and 2018.

Nationals principal owner Ted Lerner has shown a willingness to spend to make the team a World Series contender. Washington sent a message when it signed Jayson Werth for seven years and $126 million in 2010, and it has subsequently handed out contracts worth a combined $485 million to Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman.

Still, re-signing Harper will be a major challenge for the Nationals. He has little incentive to agree on an extension before hitting free agency, and should he hit the open market, there’s no telling how high his price tag could climb.

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Bryce Harper, Nationals GM and Trainer Reportedly Meet to Discuss Injury Rumors

Following a report that a shoulder injury has hampered Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, the reigning NL MVP reportedly denied any issues in a closed-door meeting with management Tuesday. 

SI.com’s Tom Verducci wrote Tuesday that Harper is struggling through shoulder and neck ailments on the heels of missing a few games in August due to a neck injury.

Per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, Harper told general manager Mike Rizzo he did not have a shoulder injury, and trainer Paul Lessard confirmed he had not treated the 23-year-old superstar for any such problems.

Manager Dusty Baker commented on the situation as well and expressed confusion regarding the source of Verducci’s information: “Bryce said it didn’t come from him. Nobody really knows where it comes from because it’s not on the injury report. The trainer said no.”

After hitting .330 and raking 42 home runs to go along with 99 RBI last season, Harper is in the midst of a down year.

He entered play Thursday hitting just .240 with 24 homers and 82 RBI, although he does lead the NL with 106 walks.

Despite Harper failing to live up to expectations, the Nats hold a healthy nine-game lead over the New York Mets in the NL East, and they may be the team to beat in the National League aside from the Chicago Cubs.

Regardless of Harper’s health, Washington will likely need more from him as it makes a push for the World Series.

Harper’s high walk total suggests the opposition still respects him, though, and his mere presence makes life easier for other offensive stars such as Wilson Ramos, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner to produce at the plate.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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After Years in Minors, Bryce’s Brother Bryan Harper Still Waiting for MLB Shot

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Bryan Harper had entered a tie game to start the ninth inning for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, and he was now in a bind—bases loaded, two outs. 

The next Portland Sea Dogs batter slammed a hard grounder up the middle for a short-to-second, inning-ending force out. A walk in the bottom half plated the run that made Harper a 2–1 winner.

“I just let the defense work. That was a good way to get out of it: Pound the zone,” Harper said of his final offering that May 25 night.

Making quality pitches in tight situations could earn Harper, who’s now with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, a call-up to the Washington Nationals. His standing 6’5″ and throwing left-handed would be key factors, too.

One thing is for sure: Harper, 26, will have reached the majors on his own merit. Being the older brother of the Nationals’ star outfielder is proving quite irrelevant.

According to Nationals vice president and senior advisor to the general manager Bob Boone, “He was signed with [the perception of] ‘This is Bryce’s brother, coming in on his coattails.’ He’s getting on the radar right now. I’m excited for him.

“He’s pushing his way through the door. All of a sudden, people are taking notice.” 

Boone, a longtime catcher in the bigs, would know something about brothers striving for the majors. His sons Aaron and Bret enjoyed fine MLB careers and Bob’s own brother Rod reached Triple-A. His father Ray was also major league infielder.

So far in 2016, Bryan has pitched to a 2.18 ERA, saved six games (all with Harrisburg), held opponents to a .174 batting average and struck out nearly a batter an inning.

Bryce, of course, has a bit more to show for himself, as the No. 1 overall draft selection in 2010, a four-time All-Star and the reigning National League MVP and Silver Slugger Award winner.

Since beginning his professional career in 2011, Bryan has pitched for six different clubs within the Nationals system—all in relief.

Throughout, Bryce has been his biggest supporter.

“[He made] sure I kept my nose to the grindstone,” Bryan said.

“He doesn’t need to tell me that. He says, ‘Keep working. You know you’ll make it.’ It’s a motivational thing for the both of us. I tell him the same thing.”

Should the Harpers share the Nationals locker room, it’d be their fourth experience as teammates since high school back in Nevada. The most recent time occurred with Harrisburg in 2014, when Bryce rehabbed for three games and played center field for two-thirds of an inning that Bryan pitched.

“It’s always been a dream of both of ours, once we got into pro ball, where we wanted to play with each other,” Bryan, a polite sort, said in the Harrisburg dugout hours before that ninth-inning victory. “Being able to play professionally, at the pinnacle of our sport, would probably be the coolest thing, by far, not just for me and him but for the whole family—being able to have the family there and watch me do my thing on the mound and Bryce doing what he does on a regular basis.

“He’s just always told me to keep grinding. He knows that I always have been a grinder. I’m always working hard to make my own name for myself and, hopefully, one day, be able to play with each other.”

The grinder has toiled at his craft. His 2016 pitching coaches, Harrisburg’s Chris Michalak and Syracuse’s Bob Milacki, said in separate interviews that they detected improvements early in spring training that indicated he had done some serious offseason work. They noticed that entering last season, too. And in 2014.

For Michalak this year, that meant Harper’s more consistent delivery, an improved curveball and increased confidence. Milacki cited the same, along with greater life to his fastball. Harper’s height, paired with the tweaks, have made him “able to create good angles” and significantly improve his breaking pitches, Milacki explained.

“With Bryan, from last year to spring training to now, he’s such a different pitcher,” said Milacki, who also had him for a short stint at Syracuse in 2015.

The best indicator of Harper’s makeup, Milacki said, occurred in Rochester this June 30.

Extra innings, tie score, first game of a doubleheader, bases loaded. Pressure, anyone? Adam Walker shot the pitch to deep center. It barely carried over the wall. Game over.

The next afternoon, Milacki took a pregame stroll to the outfield to take Harper’s emotional temperature. Harper calmly explained that he’d left a fastball over the plate. Perfectly sensible, and no use making an excuse.

“The good thing is, he’s accountable,” Milacki said he came away thinking.

Those who know the brothers well say that along with pride and a strong work ethic, Bryan has his head screwed on straight—with the extended Harper family having much to do with that.

Bryan’s best friend for more than a decade, Colin Shumate, recalled a decision the two made in high school to refrain from the drinking and partying scenes of their Las Vegas friends. Besides, they preferred Nintendo and Wii and Sunday family nights at the Harper’s house, where mom Sheri prepared burritos and enchiladas, sister Brittany baked dessert, and the males—Shumate included—handled the cleanup.

Other times, they all, Shumate included, hung out at the pool of Sheri’s parents, the Brookses, down the street.

The simple gestures of Sheri and her husband Ron are what impressed Shumate, such as always asking him sincerely how things were. When Shumate’s father Bill suffered a stroke in 2012, the Harpers were there.

Bryan and Bryce wore “Press On Warrior” wristbands the Shumates produced. All five Harpers checked in regularly with Shumate.

When Bill died in 2014, Ron called immediately. Shumate said Ron told him “how much he loved me and cared for me and was proud of me.”

“They were an active part of my maturing. That family was definitely a big part of who I am and who I became,” said Shumate, who works as a personal trainer in Southern California.

“You definitely know they love, care for and protect those they’re close to, who’re family to them. That reflects in the way Bryce and Bryan act and handle themselves.”

When the Harpers were teammates for one season at Las Vegas High School, spectators seemed to empathize with Bryan because of the stardom many predicted for Bryce.

But Bryan “never took it like that” and remained his own person, confident in his ability and not begrudging Bryce’s success, their coach Sam Thomas said.

Sibling rivalry is a tricky—and loaded—thing, especially among high achievers in any endeavor.

A psychologist in Baltimore who specializes in relationships between siblings, Avidan Milevsky, explained that rivalry and even aggression are inevitable, unless “de-identification” occurs. That happens when one of them selects a different professional path to minimize comparisons with a more heralded, usually older, sibling and to carve out a unique identity.

When they embrace the same profession, parental influence is often the factor in determining whether siblings can maintain a healthy, rather than a conflict-laden, relationship, he said.

Milevsky offered another pair of sports brothers as an ideal. In fact, he often begins lectures on sibling dynamics by screening a slide showing Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh embracing his brother and then-San Francisco 49ers coach Jim after the former’s victory over the latter in Super Bowl XLVII. Milevsky follows that up with a slide of the Harbaughs posed with their sister and parents.

“The saving grace was the parents raised them well,” Milevsky said of the Harbaughs. “They worked very, very hard to create a sense of harmony in the family. If you don’t see that tension between [siblings], that means their parents were very, very special people and did something unique.”

That’s apparently what’s at play, too, with the Harpers. The brothers maintain regular contact, sometimes after every game, more to encourage one another than to offer tips on approaching a particular pitcher or hitter. Shumate often texts with Bryce and speaks by telephone with Bryan.

Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy, who coached with the Nationals in 2014 and 2015, has seen the brothers up close, too.

“You can tell they have that bond. I hope my kids have that with each other,” said LeCroy, the father of five. “Once the competition’s over, what else do you have?”

The unfortunate thing is that it’ll likely take being teammates for Bryan and Bryce to appreciate each other’s play in person. Except for that sole Harrisburg game when they wore the same uniform, the Harper brothers have rarely been able to attend the other’s games.

When Bryan pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Nationals’ Washington-area Single-A teams, Hagerstown and Potomac, he popped over to Nationals Park a few times to watch Bryce in action. The two even lived together in 2014, the year Bryce once drove over to Potomac’s stadium in Virginia to watch the other Nationals play.

“It was awesome,” Bryan said. “I threw well that night, and it was cool to have him there to see.”

It’ll be far cooler whenever—if ever—Bryan is promoted to The Show. Boone considers that a real possibility.

“He’s in the mix,” Boone, in Harrisburg for two of the Portland games, said of the Nationals’ plans. “This year is the best he’s pitched. He’s getting big-league ready… Everyone’s always looking for left-handed pitching, including us.”

Unfortunately for Bryan, he will now have to wait until 2017 to get his chance. All the hard work that got him so close to his dream has been negated by an arm injury. He has been on the disabled list since August 10 and will be unable to return in 2016.

When that time finally comes, however, his support group will be ready.

In the Harpers’ circles, some of the most important people will drop everything to fly…wherever.

“It’ll be the fulfillment of everything he’s worked for his whole life,” Shumate said. “I’ll be really excited when he fulfills it.”

No less pumped up at the thought is Thomas.

“I would love to see Bryan have that opportunity, and it would be that much more special with his brother on the same club,” he said.

“I’d have to dig up $500, $600 to be there, because that’s something I’d never miss. The penalty with my wife would be terrible. I’d probably have to do dishes for a year.”


Hillel Kuttler covers baseball for Bleacher Report. His work has previously appeared at The New York Times and The Washington Post. Follow Hillel on Twitter @HilleltheScribe

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Bryce Harper’s Historic MVP Season Suddenly Looking Like an Anomaly

In Saturday’s 7-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper struck out three times and exited after the sixth inning with a stiff neck, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post.

If that isn’t a metaphor for Harper’s 2016 season, nothing is.

The first-place Nats have plenty to smile about. Second baseman Daniel Murphy is on pace to win a batting title, and breakout catcher Wilson Ramos is hot on his heels. Speedy rookie Trea Turner is lighting up the basepaths. The starting rotation sports the second-best ERA (3.31) in baseball.

But Harper, the reigning National League MVP, has been largely absent from the party.

At the end of April, Harper had nine home runs and a 1.121 OPS. In the three-plus months since, he’s managed 11 homers and watched his OPS tumble to .812.

He’s been especially anemic since the All-Star break, posting a .134/.259/.209 slash line with three extra-base hits and 20 strikeouts in 19 games.

That’s wince-inducing. And it raises an uncomfortable yet unavoidable question: Was Harper’s MVP campaign an anomaly?

Early this season, the story was all about teams not pitching to Harper. By the end of May, he’d drawn 13 intentional walks, two shy of his career high. On May 8, the Chicago Cubs walked him six times in a single game, tying the all-time mark.

But as Harper’s production cratered, the free passes came less frequently. He’s received only three intentional walks since June 1, and his 18.3 walk percentage for the season is actually down slightly from last year’s mark of 19 percent.

Maybe the starkest disparity between Harper’s 2015 and 2016 stat sheets is his batting average on balls in play, which has plummeted from .369 to .237.

Before you chalk that up to bad luck, consider that Harper’s hard-contact rate has fallen from 40.9 percent in 2015 to 32.2 percent, while his soft-contact rate has climbed from 11.9 percent to 22.0 percent.

Lately, pitchers have been exploiting him with fastballs, as Sporting News’ Jesse Spector outlined:

According to data from Brooks Baseball, pitchers are particularly focusing on that fastball weakness lately, with Harper seeing “hard” stuff 63.76 percent of the time in July—the highest rate thrown to him in a full month since April 2014. Harper’s average exit velocities on those pitches dropped to an average of 89.1 mph in July, only the second time in 10 months of tracking that he’s been below 90.

On July 10, Harper insisted his approach isn’t broken.

“This is going to sound bad and people are going to look at it and say it sounds bad, but I’m really good at the plate,” he said, per Janes. “Of course guys have holes in their swings, but I don’t feel like I do. When I go up to the plate, I don’t want to think I have a hole or anything like that. I think I can hit any pitch.”

Confidence has been Harper’s calling card since he burst into the big leagues in 2012 as a brash 19-year-old wunderkind and claimed NL Rookie of the Year honors. So Nats fans should be heartened to hear he’s not throwing in the towel.

It’s easy to forget Harper is just 23 years old, an age when plenty of talented players are working out the kinks in the minor leagues. For perspective, Harper is only eight months older than Turner, who’s logged a scant 48 games in The Show.

In other words, don’t bet against Harper getting hot again. He’s simply too gifted for this current feckless stretch to continue unabated.

On the other hand, if you thought 2015 was the new normal, you may want to adjust your expectations. The reality is likely somewhere in between this protracted soft-contact slump and the guy who blew away his career bests in virtually every offensive category and posted the highest single-season OPS+ (195) of any active player.

Here, let’s stack Harper’s historic 2015 next to his numbers so far this season and his career averages:

A return to those career averages would make Harper an exceedingly valuable player and would boost the Nats’ chances considerably. It’s also probably closest to the real Harper.

The bottom line is this: There will be ups; there will be downs. There will be growing pains, even after everything he’s accomplished.

In fact, for all his bravado, Harper may be wrestling with the weight of expectations, pressing to meet the impossibly high standard he set.

“He tries to live up to all this,” Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu said, per Janes. “I think you just have to get back down to being a hitter.”

Harper may never again do what he did last season. But he can—and almost surely will—get back to being a dangerous, productive hitter.

So far, though, 2016 has been a serious, unquestionable pain in the neck.


All statistics current as of Aug. 7 and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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Bryce Harper Injury: Updates on Nationals Star’s Neck and Return

Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper exited against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday due to a stiff neck and remains without an exact timetable for his return.  

Continue for updates.

Harper Out vs. Giants

Sunday, Aug. 7

MLB.com’s Jamal Collier noted that Harper would not play against the Giants on Sunday.

Harper Comments on Injury

Sunday, Aug. 7

“It just didn’t feel very good. It got a little tense in there. I needed a break real quick,” Harper said on Saturday, per the Washington Post‘s Chelsea Janes. Harper continued:

“Our trainer got out there and gave me a second. Just definitely didn’t feel right.” 

“I think it’s an all-around thing,” said Harper, asked when he feels the trouble most.” Just coming in here today, I tried to free it up a little bit more. It didn’t happen very much, but I felt good enough to go. Unfortunately, I want to be in that lineup every night. It was just tough right there.”

Baker Comments on Harper’s Injury

Sunday, Aug. 7

“Anybody who has ever had a stiff neck, I mean, you know you’re not yourself,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said on Saturday, per Janes.

Nationals Need Harper Healthy for World Series Push

Losing Harper for a significant amount of time would be a devastating blow for the Nationals’ playoff hopes, as he is the anchor in the middle of the lineup who is expected to carry the offense on a nightly basis. Thankfully, it appears this is a minor injury.

Thus far, Harper is hitting .233 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI in 2016.

The right fielder was the 2015 National League MVP behind a .330 batting average, a 1.109 OPS, 42 home runs, 99 RBI, 38 doubles and 124 walks. He appeared in 153 games, which was the first time he had played in more than 139 contests in a season in his career.

Harper was also the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year and is a three-time All-Star.

Washington will turn to Chris Heisey to fill the void in right field until Harper returns, according to RotoworldHeisey did hint at his overall ceiling in 2011, when he hit 18 home runs for the Cincinnati Reds.

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