Harper Could "Sabotage" Nats' Offseason

The Nationals' future hinges on the whims of Bryce Harper

Taz and the Moose
August 22, 2018 - 10:00 am

USA Today Images


The Washington Nationals expected to contend for the World Series this season. Instead, they waved the white flag on their playoff hopes Tuesday, trading Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams to the Cubs and Cardinals, respectively.

What went wrong in Washington? Why was this team never able to get over the hump?

“I think it starts with the fact that Scott Boras got way too involved in that team and had the ear of ownership to the detriment of the team, going all the way back to 2012 with Stephen Strasburg and shutting him down,” former MLB executive and current CBS Sports MLB analyst David Samson said on Taz & The Moose. “You have a clubhouse that just never was able to get it together. They did a managerial firing of Dusty Baker that did not help the team. So I think it goes from ownership to GM and then of course to the players, who just never found a way with Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer – in theory the best hitter and the best pitcher on the planet – never found a way to get out of the LDS. It’s just been a disaster in the capital city.”

The Nationals (63-63) trail the Braves by 7.5 games in the NL East and the Brewers (70-58) by 6 games in the Wild Card. Samson would be surprised if the Nationals made any more major moves before the end of the season.

“I don’t think there’s much happening the rest of the way,” he said. “They made a lot of moves at the deadline and then yesterday, obviously. I think their whole offseason hinges on Harper and whether Harper re-signs. That will be known pretty quickly because he will make his desires known, and the Nationals will either meet them or not. But I think Bryce Harper signs for the most money – whichever team offers it. It could be Philly, it could be the Yankees, it could be the Braves, and it could be the Nationals. You just don’t know right now. I think until they know how to allocate their payroll, it will be hard to build the team. So Harper could in theory hold them hostage and actually sabotage their whole offseason.”

Harper, 25, could reportedly command upwards of $400 million this offseason. The 2015 NL MVP is regarded as one of the top hitters in baseball, but is he worth that amount of money? Especially when those funds could be spread across the entire organization? 

“It’s a great question,” Samson said. “That’s what’s happening in baseball right now. There’s so many great young players. Take a look at the Atlanta Braves. They’ve got a bunch of 20-year-olds winnings games for them. They’re the ones winning the division right now – or certainly leading the division. Can they hang on is the question. The Nationals waved the white flag with a bunch of very high-priced veterans on their team. If I’m running the team right now and I’m a year removed as team president, I’m thinking to myself, ‘Am I really going to spend $30 million a year on one player like Bryce Harper when I’ve got Juan Soto in the outfield for $540,000 who’s just as productive? That’s a tough math equation.”

Harper is hitting .248 with 30 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .381 OBP in 123 games this season. Soto, 19, is hitting .289 with 15 home runs, 44 RBIs and a .413 OBP in 81 games.