The Nationals' managerial candidates

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Buried in Rosenthal’s latest notes column is some dish on who the Nationals may be looking at as their next manager.  Quick: which of these names is not like the others: Chip Hale, Bob Melvin, Jim Riggleman, Bobby Valentine.

The answer, of course, is Valentine, who casual fans in Washington have actually heard of and who may spur some excitement in a fanbase that desperately needs some.

Not that this makes him the best candidate. Indeed, Hale may actually be the most attractive candidate of them all. He is a former PCL manager of the year and won the league championship in 2002.  In fact, he’s won as a manager at every level in the minor leagues.  He also has the benefit of being 14 years younger than Valentine. You can’t simply assume that this makes it easier for him to relate to young guys than would Valentine, nor can you simply  assume that he’d have more energy and all of that, because (a) Valentine is a different kind of guy than your average 60 year-old manager; and (b) well, you know what happens when we assume.  But it does suggest those things, doesn’t it? At least to the point where the Nats should be very, very careful to test those kinds of things before entrusting their very young club to Valentine. 

I feel more comfortable dismissing Riggleman and Melvin.  Neither of them bring anything to the table that your average veteran, retread manager does not.  Nice guys, I’m sure, but the Nats need something more than that.  They need life and breath and excitement, and neither Riggleman nor Melvin have ever shown the ability to supply that.  Valentine — because of his history, his time in Japan, and the fact that he’s just kind of a neat guy — and Hale — because he fits the profile of a young, accomplished manager ready to finally take over the reins of Major League team — each seem better positioned to do so. 

Upshot: I don’t know enough about the merits of either Valentine or Hale to definitively say that one is superior to the other, but of the names mentioned thus far, they’d be my front runners.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.