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Nationals extend Bryce Harper through the 2018 season

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The Nationals signed star outfielder Bryce Harper to a one-year contract extension through 2018, the team announced on Saturday. Terms of the extension have not been formally released, but according to reports from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they include a $21.65 million salary and an additional $1 million bonus if Harper secures another MVP title. Per Heyman, it projects to be Major League Baseball’s biggest one-year salary bump for a would-be arbitration-eligible player.

However you slice it, it’s a huge chunk of change for one of the league’s most valuable players. Harper slugged his way to a cumulative 23 fWAR for the Nationals over the last five years, earning four All-Star nominations, a Silver Slugger award, and NL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors to boot. While he hasn’t yet returned to the record-setting pace he maintained in 2015, replete with 42 home runs and a .330/.460/.649 batting line, he’s been one of the most consistent and productive hitters in either league. Through his first 31 games of the 2017 season, the 24-year-old is batting a tremendous .372/.496/.717 with 10 home runs and 2.4 fWAR and has already started to form a strong case for MVP consideration.

Harper is set to enter free agency following the 2018 season and will almost undoubtedly test the waters in search of another mammoth deal. For now, however, he’ll continue setting records for the Nationals, and if all goes according to plan, help power them through another postseason run come October.

A-Rod to join ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth

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Alex Rodriguez’s post-retirement renaissance continues apace. After starring as a studio host for Fox’s playoff coverage over the past couple of years, A-Rod is about to be named to, arguably, televised baseball’s top job: color commentary in ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth.

Michael McCarthy of The Sporting News is hearing that ESPN is going to give the gig, vacated by Aaron Boone by virtue of his hiring by the Yankees, to Rodriguez. There he’ll join Jessica Mendoza and whoever they get to replace play-by-play man Dan Shulman, who chose to step back from the Sunday night job following last season. This, by the way, marks the second time A-Rod has taken over Aaron Boone’s job given that he replaced Boone at third base for the Yankees in 2004.

The twist: A-Rod is likely to keep his Fox postseason job too. While some broadcasters work for multiple networks, it’s pretty rare for Fox to allow its talents to work for competitors like that. Apparently they believe keeping A-Rod — who five years ago was one of the most despised figures in baseball — is worth it. What a difference a few years makes.

In other news, Alex Rodriguez is likely to be shunned mightily by the current crop of BBWAA voters when he hits the Hall of Fame ballot in a couple of years. At the rate he’s going, though, their successors will put him in Cooperstown via the Ford Frick Award sometime in the 2040s.