Inbox: Does Nationals' activity entice Bryce?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier answers questions from D.C. fans

January 25th, 2019
MIAMI, FL - JULY 26: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals in the dugout before the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on July 26, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)Mark Brown/Getty Images

With all the additions they have made, can that help in keeping Harper in Washington or is that a negative factor?
-- Rod K.

Without a window directly into 's thoughts, I'd assume this is a positive. Harper wants to win and would ideally sign long term this offseason with a franchise that has shown a commitment to winning. And I think Harper would take it as a positive to see how the Nationals have approached this winter, not just counting on a rebound after a disappointing 2018 season, but going out and investing to improve their team.
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The only negative I could see here is if the spending on the rest of the club precluded them from signing Harper or from extending a competitive offer, but considering the Nationals are still in the running for him, I think that negates that worry. No matter who is playing right field next season, the Nats might be the favorites in the National League East in 2019. If they add Harper, it's time to start talking about World Series aspirations again. I think this should work in the Nationals' favor.

This is a tough one because I'm not sure there's anything other than team performance that will truly satisfy anyone. Spring Training will prove nothing. Manager Dave Martinez and the coaching staff will stress fundamentals ad nauseam in West Palm Beach, Fla., but even if the Nationals look better in the Grapefruit League, it doesn't mean anything until they do it when the games count. One area the Nats could improve on this spring is with some of the messaging, to avoid the mass confusion 's Spring Training caused. Other than that, just get back from West Palm Beach healthy.
Where Martinez will ultimately be judged is the regular season. I think his early-season bullpen management needs to be better. He got better at managing a bullpen as last season went on, but at the beginning, he relied too heavily on his few trustworthy relievers, and I think it wore down some of them later in the year.
The Nats are also going to have to be better at the "little things" they plan to spend all spring preaching. Their defense should be better overall, but they need to show improvement on the bases and not give away as many at-bats late in games. Martinez's performance is ultimately going to be judged by whether the Nationals get off to a strong start. Because even if they are playing better defense and running the bases well, if they start off under .500 again in April, fans will start to get restless.
I have not sensed anything from anyone in the organization that would lead me to believe Martinez should be worried about his job security at the moment.

I wouldn't count on another major addition, because I think overall the Nationals are pretty comfortable with where they stand in the 'pen. Now, this comes with one caveat. The Nats know how important bullpens have become, and they almost always feel like they can add there. It's why they made moves last season for , even when their bullpen didn't seem to be an issue, or took a chance on a guy such as Greg Holland. So, they might be able to take advantage of a stalled free-agent market and maybe sign a reliever under market value. But while I wouldn't rule it out, I don't see them signing someone to a Major League deal or multiyear contract, unless it's that scenario.

Now this is purely my speculation, but my best guess if I had to create some kind of odds would probably go in this order (from best odds to least):
1. Nats re-sign Rendon, not Harper
2. Nats re-sign both
3. Nats re-sign Harper, not Rendon
4. Nats re-sign neither
So, I do think the Nationals are almost certainly going to have one of these two long term.

Well, hardly counts as a surprise here, but Robles might be my early pick for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. I liked what I saw from right-hander a year ago and I think with more opportunities, we might see him earn more high-leverage situations. But Suero already started last season with a 3.59 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. I'm also going to be keeping an eye on James Bourque during Spring Training after the Nats added him to the 40-man roster this winter. There will be room in the bullpen for him to make a debut as soon as this season, as long as he continues to get results the way he did in 2018 -- 1.70 ERA with 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings in the Minors.