The extra Wild Card team might not be the only change to the playoff format

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We already know that there will be an extra Wild Card team in each league and a one-game playoff, perhaps as soon as next season. Craig discussed the issue at length yesterday, by the way. But Buster Olney of ESPN.com hears that there could be another change to the playoff format on the horizon:

Source: Rule that a team cannot play another club from same division in Division Series will most likely be eliminated in new playoff format.

For example: If PHI has best record, and Braves/Nats are No. 4-5 seeds, PHI could play winner of ATL/WASH under new format,in all likelihood.

The goal here is to put the eventual Wild Card winner through the ringer — and most likely use their top starting pitcher — before they face the team who had the best record during the regular season. There will still be times when a division winner has a worse record than a Wild Card team, but I can live with this. The networks probably care about this more than anyone else, but it’s also refreshing to see that MLB isn’t afraid to have the Yankees face the Red Sox in the division series, if need be.

The Nationals expect Bryce Harper to test free agency

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Earlier this week at the Winter Meetings, Scott Boras said that he and the Washington Nationals had had preliminary discussions about a contract extension for Bryce Harper. Harper, of course, can become a free agent following the 2018 season and is widely expected to command the largest contract in baseball history.

While that may have given some Nationals fans hope that no other team would get the chance to bid on him, the Nationals are of the view that they have no shot to sign Harper before he at least tests the free agent market. From USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

A lot of this seems like mutual posturing, doesn’t it? Boras trying to make it appear as though the he and Harper are giving the Nats a fair hearing and the Nats trying to make it appear as though, no matter what they do, Harper is going to hit the market. I tend to believe, personally, that Boras and Harper are hellbent on testing the market, but it’s possible that there is some number that the Nats can offer to head that off, right? Maybe?

Either way: big year ahead for Harper.