WASHINGTON — MLB insider Jon Heyman thinks there are seven teams with a real chance of breaking the bank for Bryce Harper next offseason. He puts the Washington Nationals at number seven on the list.
The full article on FanRagSports.com is worth a read, but the bad news for Nats fans is that is may not really matter what the Nats put together as an offer if it plays out under Heyman’s scenario.
Basically, D.C. is familiar, the Nats have not encumbered his meteoric rise, and they probably have the financial means to offer him the biggest contract. But Heyman suspects that Harper wants more.
In handicapping the odds, he had this to say about the Nats:
They’d love for him to return, they have a lot of players coming off the books and they certainly have the wherewithal. Ted Lerner is believed to be baseball’s richest owner. But it’s still hard to see them outbidding some teams in bigger markets.
This stands in contrast to the Dodgers, who are ranked first on the list, who Heyman calls “practically Harper’s hometown team,” coming out of Las Vegas.
Some players are more enamored with playing close to where they grew up, but that idea of a free agent homecoming seems to be largely overstated. Locally, Mark Texeira grew up outside of Baltimore and had only a brief flirtation with the Orioles before grabbing the big money with the Yankees.
In other words, the idea of playing in front of a hometown crowd has been romanticized by the media for years. The only time it really happens is after the business circumstances align for both team and player.
If the Nationals ultimately lose the Harper sweepstakes, the scariest team on Heyman’s list is undoubtedly the Philadelphia Phillies because nothing would compare to losing Harper to a division rival. It doesn’t hurt that it would be rich payback for signing Jayson Werth before 2011.
At the time that Werth departed Philadelphia, the Phillies were finishing off a long reign of dominance in the National League East. Good fortune followed Werth to Washington, where he helped lead the team to its first division championship in 2012.
Anyone can see that Harper is a better player than Werth ever was and is much younger in his career. If Harper were to sign a long-term deal with Philadelphia, the Nats would have a long time and many opportunities to hate it.