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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.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.