WASHINGTON -- It's time to open up the Nationals Inbox again. Although there is still no news about where Bryce Harper will play next season, in the past week, the tide has seemingly turned to Philadelphia, where the Phillies are now reportedly the favorites to sign the 26-year old superstar.Winter
WASHINGTON -- It's time to open up the Nationals Inbox again. Although there is still no news about where Bryce Harper will play next season, in the past week, the tide has seemingly turned to Philadelphia, where the Phillies are now reportedly the favorites to sign the 26-year old superstar.
Winter Storm Harper is supposed to hit the Northeast this weekend, but there is still no resolution to this free-agent saga, even though a month from now, Nats pitchers and catchers will be working out in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Yet, there are still plenty of questions to answer in this week's Nationals' inbox:
Pros: Harper is really good. I think sometimes this gets lost in the discussion with him this offseason. Although Harper has his flaws, he's a 26-year old former National League Most Valuable Player Award winner with six All-Star appearances. Even in his "down year" of 2018, he finished batting .249/.393/.496 for 3.5 Wins Above Replacement per Fangraphs, with 34 home runs, 100 RBIs and 103 runs scored.
Steamer projects Harper to be worth 4.9 WAR and hit .267/.399/.528 with 35 homers in 2019. Since '15, he is tied for third in on-base percentage and sixth in OPS throughout all of baseball. For the first seven years, Harper has began his career on a Hall of Fame track. He is also perhaps the most recognizable star in baseball, and a young Nats franchise could have the chance to ensure he plays the prime of his career at Nationals Park. Plus, signing Harper keeps him away from the Phillies and avoids having to face him 19 times a year.
:: Submit a question to the Nationals Inbox ::
Cons: Yes, Harper has his flaws. Those were especially on display as he struggled through the first half of 2018, but those were mostly tied to his low batting average, and he hit .300 in the second half anyway. Harper has proven to be somewhat of a streak hitter, and I think that may continue, but his hot streaks are among the best in baseball.
I do have concerns about Harper's drop-off in defense last year, but as Mike Petriello pointed out, some of these are simple fixes. There are also concerns about handing Harper a record amount of money in free agency, especially if that will require signing him to a 10-year deal. Once again, I think it's a it overblown considering the age difference between Harper and the other players who were in already in their 30s when they signed long-term deals. MLB.com's Andrew Simon took a look at who Harper and Manny Machado project to be like in the future. Signing Harper would also cause the Nationals to go over the luxury tax, but that's a small price to pay for one of the biggest superstars in all of baseball.
This may seem obvious, but I'm in favor of the Nats signing Harper. This team has a chance to compete for a division title next year with or without Harper, but if they add him to this roster, it turns Washington into a World Series contender.
I think it buys the Nationals time to be patient with Carter Kieboom, the club's No. 2 prospect as rated by MLB Pipeline. Kieboom has admitted that he had not played much second base since grade school before playing there primarily during the Arizona Fall League. I think the Nats expect him to make the transition well, but after coming through the organization as a shortstop, Kieboom just has not had many reps at second base.
The Nationals want Kieboom to be fully comfortable at the position -- the footwork, turning double plays and adjusting to shifts -- before they call him up to play there everyday in Washington. They now have the time to let Kieboom develop, both in the field and at the plate. James Dozier is likely to get most of the starts, but they also have capable options in Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo if Dozier struggles.
The Nationals were unlikely to anyway, but now they really don't have to rush Kieboom. And, best-case scenario, Kieboom lights it up in the Minors and forces the Nats to change their plans and call him up sooner than they anticipated, maybe sometime this summer.
Sure, I think Fedde has a chance. Joe Ross is certainly the favorite, but he has been far from a sure thing the short time he's been on the mound the past two years (16 starts, 5.02 ERA ), and he has battled injuries. However, Fedde has dealt with the same issues as Ross, and Fedde does not have the same kind of big league track record to lean on that Ross does (12-10, 3.52 ERA from 2015-16). If Fedde comes in this spring heathy and improved on the mound while Ross looks questionable, Fedde could certainly overtake Ross on the depth chart. But it would probably take that combination.
There seemed to be a leadership vacuum in the clubhouse last year after Jayson Werth's departure. Is anyone going to fill that role?
-- @jhughe22 on Twitter
I don't think there was a huge void, just because guys like Max Scherzer, Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Wieters or Brandon Kintzler (before he got traded) were still around to fill that void for Werth (and even for Daniel Murphy, since he spent most of last year rehabbing from injury). I do think this year you'll see players like Adam Eaton and Sean Doolittle -- who are already present and vocal -- take on even more of a leadership role now as they grow more comfortable in a Nationals uniform. It'll be intriguing to see how the team's newest additions all blend in. The Nats do consider each player's clubhouse reputation before they acquire them, and each of their new additions is considered to be a positive in that respect.
I wouldn't think so, just because Reynolds would be so redundant. At first base, they already have Zimmerman and Matt Adams, and Kendrick could play there if necessary. I don't think there is a spot for Reynolds at the moment.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.