David Huzzard: Looking ahead to free agency after 2018 season

There is a lot of talk about where Bryce Harper will land when he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season. There is also a lot of discussion of who else is available and if a Golden State Warriors-like super team could be formed in Major League Baseball. It is perfectly possible. Daniel Murphy and Harper are scheduled to be free agents from the Nats, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson will both be free agents at third base, Charlie Blackmon and Adam Jones will join Harper as available outfielders, Clayton Kershaw can opt out of his deal, and Kelvin Herrera and Zach Britton are available at the back of the bullpen.

Let's assume all those players hit free agency and the Nationals are now competing against other teams for Murphy and Harper. Even if the Nats lose both Murphy and Harper, they will still have Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, and prospects like Victor Robles, Juan Soto and Carter Kieboom that could be ready or close to ready to contribute at the major league level. The Nats have a surprisingly good record of hitting on their top prospects, so let's say two of those will work out and suddenly the 2019 Nats already look like a strong team with Harper and Murphy walking away and adding no further players through free agency or trades.

Looking at the list of the super free agents the biggest get for the Nationals would be Kershaw. With Rendon manning the hot corner, it is unlikely the Nats go after Machado, but Donaldson could be an option with him being older and possibly open to a move across the diamond if Ryan Zimmerman's miracle comeback has not held up. Even with Robles and Soto being outfielders and Eaton already a member of the Nationals, passing up on a player like Blackmon might be hard. The Nats have made runs at free agents it hasn't looked like they've had room for before. They've missed out all those times, but eventually they'll land one and figure out what to do later. Which of course opens the Nats back up to Machado. Rendon has played second before, and in this scenario, Murphy is no longer a member of the Nationals.

What if Harper's condition for deciding where he plays is to see where one of the other free agents lands? What if Harper and Machado have texted back and forth or spoke last night one the field about how fun the Warriors have been to watch and how great it would be to be part of a super team, and what if the Nats could be that super team?

The Nats get dismissed so early in any conversation about where Harper is going to play in 2019, which is almost laughable. They've outbid teams before for free agents, they've offered more money than anyone else and missed out, and this time they have a couple of advantages. Harper is uniquely concerned with his legacy and he understands that players like Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken Jr. are remembered more fondly because they played for only one team. Imagine the reaction if Albert Pujols hit his 600th home run wearing a Cardinals jersey instead of an Angels one. Has there ever been less fanfare for a player reaching a milestone? Pujols did something great and the baseball world was silent partly because Pujols went out west to fade into obscurity.

Maybe Harper cares and maybe he doesn't. Where he signs is going to come down to more than money. Any team that wants him is going to have to offer somewhere around the same amount. Somewhere around an estimated price tag of $400 million - and perhaps he's waiting to see where Kershaw or Machado sign or perhaps he wants to be a legacy player or maybe he wants to run off and rebuild the House that Ruth Built. But maybe we shouldn't be so quick to rule out the Nats as a Harper landing spot. Maybe the Nats are the super team. Maybe they're one already and Harper has no reason to leave.

David Huzzard blogs about the Nationals at Citizens of Natstown. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHuzzard. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our regular roster of writers.

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