Washington Nationals

Did the Nationals choose Patrick Corbin over Bryce Harper?

Nationals fans were excited when their team reeled in Patrick Corbin, but the move may have closed the door on Bryce Harper returning to Washington.

Handing a six-year, $140 million contract to Patrick Corbin seemed to be a sign that the Washington Nationals were willing to spend big to contend in 2019. Evidently that philosophy doesn’t extend to Bryce Harper. His exit from the nation’s capital seems inevitable heading into the Winter Meetings.

This isn’t just idle conjecture. Nationals owner Mark Lerner recently told reporters that he doesn’t expect Harper to re-sign with the team. Washington reportedly made the star outfielder a 10-year, $300 million contract offer during the regular season that was rebuffed by Scott Boras and company.

Clearly, the Nationals would like to bring Harper back if money wasn’t an issue. Lerner claims he doesn’t believe his franchise could “afford” to re-sign their All-Star outfielder and “still be able to put a team together that had a chance to win the NL East.” No one in the organization believe Harper’s on-field talent wouldn’t really boost their chances to contend. Letting him go is purely a financial decision.

That’s why it’s fair to wonder why the Nationals felt like they could sign Corbin to a huge contract. The team went so far as to outbid the Yankees by approximately $40 million to secure the top starting pitcher on the free agent market. They may have needed to offer that much money to outbid the Phillies, but it’s still a massive outlay of cash for a franchise that’s crying poor when it comes to Harper.

Even the most optimistic projections for Harper’s new deal top out at 10-years, $330 million. Reallocating Corbin’s $140 million over the next six years would have put a big dent in what the Nationals would have needed to pay the 26-year-old slugger.

That reality only leads to two potential conclusions. The first is that the Nationals simply didn’t want to pay a penny more than the $300 million they offered Harper during the regular season. It’s possible Lerner and company had their feelings hurt when their large offer was summarily dismissed.

The other alternative is that the Nationals simply believe they can spend their money more efficiently on multiple players. That’s really the most logical explanation for handing Corbin a massive deal instead of allocating those funds to Harper. There’s nothing wrong with that line of thinking by the Nationals front office, but it’s not a conclusion that Harper or Boras are going to respond to positively.

Next: The Nationals are sleeping giants in free agency

The bottom line is that the Nationals did choose Corbin over Harper. The minute they handed the talented southpaw $140 million, it effectively ended Harper’s career in DC. Time will tell how that controversial choice will play out in the long run.

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