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The Nationals could use Bryan Harper to keep Bryce around in 2019

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The Nationals might have to get creative if they want to retain outfielder Bryce Harper beyond 2018, and Byron Kerr of MASN Sports speculates that they could use Bryce’s older brother, Bryan, in order to do so. Bryan Harper, a left-handed reliever in the Nats’ minor league system, is currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery and could be ready for his next stint in the minors as soon as 2018, with his big league debut not far behind.

The 28-year-old southpaw last appeared for the Nationals’ Double- and Triple-A affiliates in 2016, pitching to a combined 2.18 ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 8.1 SO/9 through 45 1/3 innings. He was diagnosed with a forearm strain in August and underwent Tommy John surgery several months later, with a requisite recovery period that kept him sidelined through the entire 2017 season. With a return to full health, Harper could presumably slot into a bullpen that features fellow lefties Sean Doolittle, Sammy Solis, Enny Romero and Matt Grace.

This isn’t a perfect plan, certainly, but one that might still appeal to the 25-year-old Bryce as he eyes free agency next fall. Kerr adds that the brothers haven’t played together since their college days, and it’s not too ludicrous to imagine Bryan suiting up for the team in the next couple of years — provided that he can replicate some of his pre-TJ results on the major league level. Of course, that may not be enough to sway Bryce into signing an extension with the Nationals, who told reporters they “firmly believe” their star outfielder will test the market in 2019.

Padres will try to lock up Fernando Tatís Jr. to a long term deal

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The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will try to get Fernando Tatís Jr. locked up in a long-term deal before the start of the 2020 season.

It’d be a wise move from the team’s perspective, of course. Tatís showed in 2019 that he’s the future of the franchise, hitting .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers and 16 stolen bases through 84 games while playing spectacular defense at short. He was a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year Award before going down to injury and still finished third despite playing just a tad over half a season.

That talent and promise means that, in all likelihood, Tatís stands to make massive money in arbitration and free agency once he gets there. If he gets there, that is. Because as we’ve seen so often in recent years, teams have been aggressive in their efforts to lock up young stars like Tatís, buying out their arbitration and at least a couple of their free agency years. These deals tend to be team-friendly, with multiple team options aimed at getting maximal value out of such players before they hit the open market. Of course, the players get much more up front money than they would in the three seasons in which teams can and do set their salaries unilaterally, usually at less than $1 million per year. It’s a standard now vs. later tradeoff, even if the value of the “now” is far less than the value of “later” and even if it pays these guys far less than they’re worth overall.

But that’s the system. And it’s one which will force Tatís to make a tough choice: either take a deal at a time when the team has most of the leverage or else turn down millions in hand now in order take a shot at many more millions later. In his case, he’ll have a rookie season with multiple injuries to think about too. Does that portend future injury issues? Could he, like some players who have been in his shoes before, end up damaged goods by the time he expected to get paid?

We’ll see how both he and the Padres calculate all of that between now and February, it seems.