Nationals’ GM says Bryce Harper could make the team out of spring training

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It’s no secret that Nationals manager Davey Johnson would like top prospect Bryce Harper to make the team out of spring training as the starting right fielder. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has played things pretty coy until now, but his comments to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com yesterday indicate that he hasn’t dismissed the possibility.

“We’re take a look at him and see where he’s at developmentally. If we feel he’s ready to play at the major-league level, we’re not going to restrict him,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said by phone. “We’ll be cautious yet open-minded. If he gives us the best chance to win, we’ll keep an open mind and see where it takes us.”

This idea continues to gain momentum, but unless Harper absolutely tears the cover off the ball during spring training and gives the Nationals no other choice, I still see it as unlikely. Harper batted .256/.329/.395 with a .724 OPS over 147 plate appearances after being promoted to Double-A Harrisburg last season and while that’s pretty darn impressive for an 18-year-old, some more at-bats in the minor leagues might not be the worst thing for his development.

Of course, the most significant reason to keep Harper in the minors to begin the year would be to delay his service time so that he doesn’t qualify as a Super Two player down the road. With that in mind, chances are we’ll see him when some of the game’s other top prospects make their way to the majors in late-May or June.

Report: Rangers sign Jeff Mathis to two-year deal

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The Rangers have signed catcher Jeff Mathis to a two-year contract, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The deal is pending a physical.

Mathis turns 36 years old at the end of March and has a career .564 OPS across 14 seasons, but he is well-regarded for his defense and ability to handle a pitching staff.

The arrival of Mathis could mean the Rangers are moving on from Robinson Chirinos behind the plate, as he is now a free agent. The Rangers could go after another catcher to complement Mathis or just have Isiah Kiner-Falefa back up Mathis. Though Kiner-Falefa mostly played elsewhere, including three spots across the infield, he did rack up over 300 defensive innings behind the plate in 2018.