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Inbox: Will Harper sign an extension, Desmond return?

Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers fans' questions
MLB.com @ladsonbill24

Most believe the Nats have no chance of keeping Bryce Harper once he becomes a free agent. Your thoughts? 
-- Harry P., Lady Lake, Fla.

Harper is not a free agent until 2019. So I think it's too early to predict what could happen in a few years. Now if he has another MVP-level season, it would not surprise to see the team try to extend him for years to come.

What are the chances that Ian Desmond returns to the Nationals this year?
-- Kevin L., Baltimore 

Three people outside the organization told me this month that they felt there was a chance Desmond could sign a one-year deal with the club. Today, I asked someone in the organization about the possibility of Desmond returning, and this person said, "It's a long, long, long, long shot." The Nationals want to see Danny Espinosa take over at shortstop. In fact, manager Dusty Baker said Thursday that Espinosa looks like he is in midseason form at the plate.

Most believe the Nats have no chance of keeping Bryce Harper once he becomes a free agent. Your thoughts? 
-- Harry P., Lady Lake, Fla.

Harper is not a free agent until 2019. So I think it's too early to predict what could happen in a few years. Now if he has another MVP-level season, it would not surprise to see the team try to extend him for years to come.

What are the chances that Ian Desmond returns to the Nationals this year?
-- Kevin L., Baltimore 

Three people outside the organization told me this month that they felt there was a chance Desmond could sign a one-year deal with the club. Today, I asked someone in the organization about the possibility of Desmond returning, and this person said, "It's a long, long, long, long shot." The Nationals want to see Danny Espinosa take over at shortstop. In fact, manager Dusty Baker said Thursday that Espinosa looks like he is in midseason form at the plate.

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What do you think Baker will bring to the Nationals this year?
-- Ethan H., Dagsboro, Del.

I think right-hander Max Scherzer said it best: Baker keeps the team loose. The team is having fun right now. As Scherzer said, "[Baker's] personality has so much charisma. Sometimes you just need new faces, and this is the situation. He has his own style. He's old school. [Joking] He played with Babe Ruth. [Being serious] He has seen so much baseball. He just knows so much. He knows how to manage. He already has set the tone, definitely, this year."

Video: Baker excited for first year with Nationals

I also believe you are going to see players improve under Baker. I believe Espinosa and Michael Taylor will improve dramatically at the plate because of Baker. I think the skipper will bring positive reinforcements to those players on a daily basis.

Can you predict the Nationals' rotation on Opening Day?
-- Mathew B., Boston

It's early, but right now it seems like a no-brainer. I see Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross in the rotation. I can't rule out Bronson Arroyo or top prospect Lucas Giolito. I'd need to see how they pitch during the exhibition season before I say that they are in the mix.

Video: Outlook: Strasburg has enough talent to be top SP

Why did the Nationals let Yunel Escobar get away? He was a consistent hitter.
-- Terry R., Washington D.C.

I think trading Escobar to the Angels was a good thing. The Nationals needed to get Anthony Rendon back at third base, his natural position, and they needed bullpen help. That's why they were able to get Trevor Gott. In my opinion, Escobar was a below-average defender at third base. I don't think he would have been any better if he played at shortstop or second base.

What was it that made the front office sour on Drew Storen? The kid is one of the premier closers in the game, yet the team always seemed to be looking for someone better.
-- Jeff R., New Bedford, Mass.

I think it's too strong to say the team soured on Storen. It didn't help that he blew two games in the postseason in 2012 and '14. I simply think it was time for Storen to be traded after the Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon before the non-waiver Trade Deadline last year. I believe a change of scenery will help Storen in Toronto.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Washington Nationals