Bryce Harper should re-sign with the Nationals

June 2009. 16 year old high school baseball phenom Bryce Harper graces the cover of Sports Illustrated for the first time. Inside the magazine Tom Verducci has written an article where he boldly claims that Harper is “Baseball’s Lebron.” This is high praise for any athlete, but for a 16 year old high schooler, this was uncharted territory.

Harper and his parents decided that Bryce would drop out of high school and complete his GED. It wasn’t the most traditional move but they realized that high school competition was no longer challenging him. Harper would play in the fall for the College of Southern Nevada and be eligible for the draft a year early.

June 2010. With the first pick in the 2010 MLB draft, the Washington Nationals selected 17-year old Bryce Harper. With that, the fledgling Nationals had made their mark. In back to back years they managed to land an advanced college pitcher in Stephen Strasburg and now a young, ultra-athletic outfielder in Bryce Harper.

August 2018. Bryce Harper, now 25, has blossomed into one of Major League Baseball’s most formative superstars. Harper has already made 6 all-star teams, won the Most Valuable Player award in 2015 and has amassed 180 career home runs. The Las Vegas native has become the face of the Nationals franchise and brings along with him a grandiose persona. Harper is a superstar in Major League Baseball and a fan favorite in DC.

But Harper is now two months away from reaching free agency for the first time. Speculation has run rampant for years that he will receive the largest contract in MLB history. The media, fans and even rival executives have speculated that Harper would like to play for the Yankee’s just as he told Verducci back in 2009. Yet again, people have also said he would be interested in joining his good friend and fellow Las Vegas native Kris Bryant in the Windy City. The truth is, nobody knows exactly what is going to happen and the market for his services will be robust. But with only mere weeks left until free agency begins, Nationals fans are on edge. Their beloved outfielder may be leaving town without a World Series ring after being bounced from the playoffs in the first round four times since 2012. Things haven’t always been easy in DC, Harper is now playing for his fourth manager since being called up to the big leagues in 2012. The Nationals core, including Strasburg have been plagued with injuries. But none of this really matters, nobody wants to hear why, they just want to win. The fans want to win, the Lerner family wants to win and Harper wants to win.

That’s why Bryce Harper should sign long term with the Washington Nationals.

Just as people have speculated that Harper wants to play in pinstripes, people close to him have also stated that Harper loves DC and is comfortable playing there. It’s all he’s ever known as a professional athlete and while the consistent deep playoff runs have not come to fruition yet, he will get a chance to win in Washington. The Nationals farm system isn’t revered but they still have a very solid core of young players. Juan Soto has blasted on the scene in 2018 and Trea Turner is their speedy, power hitting shortstop of the future. Not to mention that perennial Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer is locked up through 2021. The Nationals have the young core and the ability to spend money, they aren’t far off from being annual contenders.

The love that the District of Columbia has for Bryce Harper is clear and this year’s All-Star week is a prime example. Harper was chosen to participate in the Home Run Derby, his father Ron threw to him. As per usual, Harper gave the fans what they came to see. He lit up the sky over the nation’s capital with 45 home runs, the fans at Nationals Park went wild as he tied Kyle Schwarber with seconds left of regulation time. Then, with 16 seconds left in the bonus round, Harper blasted his 19th homer of the round to win it all. Teammates, his manager and his dad mobbed him in the infield as the fans in the stands chanted his name.

Harper struggled in the first half of 2018, his performance at the home run derby reminded himself and the Nationals fans why they were so in love with each other. It a lot of ways it seemed like a defining moment. Perhaps it served as a reminder to Harper that he loves playing in DC.

The Lerner family is committed to winning. The Nationals, at the time of this writing have the 5th highest payroll in MLB. It would be Harpers pergotive to take a home town discount, but he’s certainly not required too. In fact, Harper is lined up to secure a fortune that should secure him and his family for a lifetime and then some. He should absolutely maximize his value as a professional athlete who has established himself among the games elite.But maybe all the talk about Harper teaming up with his good friend Kris Bryant or the thought of him joining fellow outfield sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the big Apple is all noise. If the Lerner family wants to win then they need to be aggressive this off-season by securing the rights to one of the games best ball players for years to come. If they come through and offer him a fair market deal, then Bryce should absolutely sign on the dotted line.

That 16 year old kid who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated almost a decade ago would of told you that this is how it would of played out. Bryce Harper knows exactly how talented he is and he plays with an unparalleled intensity. He’s on the fast track to becoming a legend and he has the opportunity this off-season to begin immortalizing himself as the greatest Nat ever, and he absolutely should.