Bryce Harper: Can the Nats keep him? Or does he become a Yankee?

bryce harperNational League MVP Bryce Harper is a member of the Washington Nationals through 2018. After that, to some, it seems clear that he is destined for pinstripes.

Harper, 23, could become baseball’s first $500 million man when he becomes a free agent, assuming the kvetching over the shipping industry doesn’t actually portend an economic downturn.

A lot can and will happen over the next three seasons. Harper, in 2015, played like the next Mickey Mantle, with a .330/.460/.649 slash line, 42 homers, 99 RBIs, a 1.109 OPS, a 9.9 WAR, yeah, fuggin-a wow.

But 2015 was the first year that Harper played more than 139 games. Kid is injury-prone, because he plays every inning like it’s his last, which is admirable for a player of his talents, which are prodigious, but does he want to be the Mantle, or Pistol Pete Reiser, who never saw a brick wall he couldn’t try to run through?

But let’s assume he stays relatively injury-free, and his production stays where it is, or, shudder the thought, continues to build from where it was in 2015.

What then?

The New York Yankees, on paper, would have tens of millions free from their current payroll to throw at Harper, with the expiring contracts of Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia.

But this assumes the Yanks don’t lavish those dollars on other free agents between now and 2019, which again is a ways off.

We’re talking about a franchise that has been sliding toward irrelevance in recent years somehow finding the patience to wait three years to land one guy.

We’re also thinking the Nats won’t have tried every trick in the book between now and then to back a Brink’s truck up to Harper’s back door.

Washington has three years to try to keep the stud that it made a big-leaguer at age 19, and the franchise has proven that it is willing to spend big on the right guys: witness the $210 million over seven years that the Nats threw at Max Scherzer this past offseason.

The only thing we know for certain is this: by the time the 2018 offseason comes around, Harper will be all of 26, with his – gulp! – prime still ahead of him.

We’re talking five, six, seven, maybe eight historically productive years into the future.

Anybody who claims to know what Harper will do is zooming you.

Because, seriously, what will he do?

Clown question, bro.

– Column by Chris Graham

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