MIAMI -- If it's even possible for something still nearly 16 months away to loom large, it's been Bryce Harper's impending free agency. Everything he does is construed as a sign that he is leaning one way or another for the winter of 2018, when he is almost certain to command the largest contract in baseball history.
Harper is perhaps the biggest single star in baseball and this year's leading vote getter from the fans for the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. He has bounced back strong after a disappointing 2016, psoting a slash line of .325/.431/.590 with 20 home runs, a 1.021 OPS and has been worth 3.5 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference.
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Next season, the All-Star Game is at Nationals Park, and Harper reiterated that he plans to participate in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby then -- if he makes the All-Star team, he added. He is 24-years old, and already a five-time All-Star with an MVP award under his belt and just completed a first half that could have him in contention for a second.
That's part of what makes his potential free agency so captivating and intriguing.
As he sat at his table at the center of attention during All-Star Game Media Day Monday afternoon at Marlins Park, Harper was peppered with questions about his future, his for cities, about everything, as the media hoped to glean a sign of his plans for the future.
"I think that's human nature," Harper said. "I think it's part of the way the world ticks. I don't even worry about it much, I focus on what I can do that day to help my team win. I don't want to look into the future. It's not fair to myself, it's not fair to my team. I'm a guy that wants to live in the moment, do the things that I can to help my team in D.C. play and win."
Harper says he does not watch much television these days, except for the Food Network. He tries to make it easy on himself by not paying attention to the newest rumors or speculation about his future -- such as the recent report that he wanted to play for the Cubs -- but he still hears them occasionally.
"You control what you hear and what you don't hear," Harper said. "Your mind and what you do it's like a little room. You try to put your furniture here; I want this chair here, I want that clock up there on the wall, I want to listen to this type of music. So you try to do the best you can to not listen to it."
Granted, Harper also can spark the flames. When the Cubs played a four-game series at Nationals Park recently, Harper posted a photo to his Instagram account of him and his wife took with Cubs third baseman Kristopher Bryant and his wife, with the caption "Back2BackOneDay." For those who believe he has a foot out the door, it was a clear sign. In reality, Harper knows exactly that people will see it that way.
And on Monday, Harper fielded questions about his thoughts on certain cities.
Does he like New York? "You go there for three days and it's pretty crazy and hectic and I want to go back home."
Well, Los Angeles is close to his hometown of Las Vegas? "I don't want to have my pass list that big so being just enough far away as I can from Vegas isn't too bad. I enjoy having my family and friends there, but I know my family and friends would probably be there every single weekend. I enjoy missing Vegas."
That certainly does not mean Harper would not consider Los Angeles or New York if he reaches free agency in 2018, but Harper pivoted from those questions to rave about D.C. Whether it was his Nationals teammates, four of which are joining him in Miami for the game, or about driving around Washington and seeing nature, the monuments, driving down Interstate 395 -- except for the traffic -- and seeing Nationals Park appear in the horizon.
"When we do go play in L.A., it's always fun being around the families being around friends, but I always miss D.C., I always miss going back," Harper said. "And so I'll go there for 4 days, if that's New York, if that's L.A. if that's Florida, Miami anywhere I go....but I enjoy going back to D.C. I always miss it when I'm not there, even in the offseason."