Braden Looper is holding out for Damon money or something…

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2546.jpgBecause he’s currently turning teams away. Bill Ladson of MLB.com tweeted this morning that the veteran right-hander declined a deal with the Nationals, while Ken Gurnick of MLB.com tells us this evening that the Dodgers aren’t willing to sign him at his current asking price.

Of course, this probably all comes down to finding a guaranteed major league contract. His agent Alan Hendricks is no doubt talking up Looper’s 14 wins from last season, as he should, but we all know better. The 35-year-old posted a 5.22 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 34 starts last season, while striking out a meager 100 batters in 194 2/3 innings (4.62 K/9 – sixth lowest in the majors among starters with at least 150 IP).

Looper has earned the reputation as a groundball pitcher, but has seen his flyball rate increase sharply since transitioning to the starting rotation. It’s unlikely he gives up as many home runs this season as he did last, but he’s still at the mercy of the players behind him. If a guaranteed contract is what he seeks, he might be best served to play the role of ambulance-chaser, waiting for the first sign of injury in a team’s starting rotation.

Bryce Harper will participate in the Home Run Derby if he makes the All-Star team

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Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.

Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.

Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.