I get the questions a lot. And they center around Bryce Harper.
Will he get half a billion dollars on his next deal? Will he stay in Washington and play for the Nationals after 2018?
Those were questions posed to me and callers on Tuesday night’s “Sportstalk” on NewsChannel 8, as a guest of ABC 7’s Robert Burton for the half-hour show.
Burton asked me the question on air. I told him I believe Harper would re-sign with the Nats in part because of the long standing relationship between general manager Mike Rizzo and super agent Scott Boras. Rizzo and Boras have had a lot of time to set up the parameters for a megadeal with Harper. The Nationals will have the best shot at signing Harper.
Harper grew up a Yankees fan. His favorite player was Robinson Cano. Harper also said back in high school his favorite teams were the Yankees, Dallas Cowboys and Duke Blue Devils.
He is still a Duke fan, but since arriving and playing five seasons (five seasons!) with the Nationals, he has embraced the Redskins and all things D.C. He has been seen wearing his Redskins cap during postgame interviews. He has said time and time again how much he loves playing for a team in the nation’s capital.
Harper also now has the opportunity to settle down and take roots in D.C. He got married to his longtime girlfriend, Kayla Varner, last week in San Diego. He can continue to make the D.C. area his home.
Bryce Harper’s wedding ... this photo is STUNNING! WOW pic.twitter.com/pUsnyHn6i3-- SUNNI (@SunniAndTheCity) December 19, 2016
The Nationals have this upcoming 2017 season to demonstrate that D.C. is the best spot for Harper to finish his career. They have built around him a club that can contend for World Series titles year in and year out. After five seasons and three division titles, one would expect Harper wanting to finish the job with the Nationals.
What better place to stamp his legacy than D.C.?
D.C. baseball has one world title, in 1924. The Yankees have 27 world championships and a laundry list of icons, from Babe Ruth to Lou Gehrig to Reggie Jackson to Yogi Berra to Mickey Mantle, and on and on.
Harper, 24, could be the player that begins a new legacy in D.C. and brings a world title back to the nation’s capital. He could be that one player that puts D.C. baseball back in the history books, and not just another name on New York baseball’s populated list.
That might be a selling point that can help Rizzo and the Lerner family in their quest to sign Harper to a lifetime contract: the chance to make Bryce Harper’s name synonymous with the Washington Nationals legacy as Mantle or Gehrig or Ruth are in New York lore.
* It is interesting when one looks at Baseball America’s top 10 Nationals prospect lists and sees the names that were on the Nationals roster and a couple that even played in the National League Division Series in October. But yet these players are still under consideration as 2017 prospects.
Baseball America national writer Teddy Cahill explained their cut-off line between prospects and veteran players.
“Essentially (we use) the Rookie of the Year rule,” Cahill said. “Except that for Rookie of the Year, they count service time. We ignore service time. It’s 130 at-bats or 50 innings or 30 games pitched. So Difo is not rookie eligible anymore, but because he doesn’t have the at-bats, he’s still eligible for (the Baseball America prospects rankings).”
* One wonders if the velocity drop-off for right-hander Lucas Giolito was the major reason why the Nationals decided to make him available and eventually trade him to the White Sox in the Adam Eaton deal. Seeing the velocity go from 98-100 mph to 93 mph was tough to watch for Giolito last season.
Baseball America editor-in-chief John Manuel said his staff and scouts had trouble explaining the velocity drop.
“We had Giolito with an 80 future fastball last year (on the 20-80 scouting scale) because he’s a starter that hits a hondo (100 mph),” Manuel said.
“All the scouts that we talk to say that there is some delivery issues. I think he was almost overthrowing. It’s like trying to hit a home run, you don’t hit a home run, trying to throw a hondo. It’s easier when you don’t try to throw a hondo.
“A 93 mph fastball straight and hittable - that is not a future 80 fastball. Last year, he was pitching with like a 50-55 fastball in a 20-80 scouting sale. That’s a different animal. You are not a front-of-the-rotation starter if you don’t have two plus pitches. You’re just not. He’s got a plus curveball. You guys saw the curveball. Curveball’s got snap. It’s got finish. It’s a good pitch. That fastball was an ordinary fastball. And that’s the mystery to me. It’s not easy to pitch in the major leagues. Lucas Giolito found that out.”