The Washington Nationals had a very disappointing 2018 season under first year manager Dave Martinez, finishing with a record of 82-80. They missed out on the postseason a year after firing well-renowned manager Dusty Baker after two early exits in the playoffs.
Martinez’s expectation when arriving to Washington was to take his talented ball club to nothing short of the World Series.
Even though the ultimate goal of a world championship was not achieved in 2018, there were many positive takeaways that can be built upon going into the 2019 season. Rookie phenom, Juan Soto emerged onto the scene in late May as a spark club that the team will rely on for years to come. Bryce Harper once again posted an impressive campaign that is going to send him into free agency, and the two time defending Cy Young Award winner is poised to defend this honor after posting yet another impressive ERA (Earned Run Average).
Now the Nationals are entering free agency with a dilemma to which many major league baseball executives simply do not have the answer: what will come of Bryce Harper? Harper– the face of the franchise and the player who holds the key to the district– has an expiring contract that is exposing him to the open market. Harper is one of the most well known baseball players of his time and is well on his way to the Major League Baseball hall of fame. Many Nationals fans simply do not know whether the team will shell out around 400 million dollars to keep Harper.
If the Nationals are unable to lock up Harper during free agency, they must find another avenue to turn down. They would be moving on from their 2010 number one overall draft pick, who often fills up Nationals Park solely based off of his popularity.
According to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, “If the Nationals pay Harper, that affects the other moves they make.” A mega-deal like Harper is requesting a lot of financial commitment from an organization with many other gaps that need be filled.
After moving three time all-star Daniel Murphy, two time world series champion pitcher Ryan Madson and bullpen stalwart Brandon Kintzler at the deadline, the Nationals front office is aware that there are major moves to be made. They have already added two high-leverage relievers, Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal, both of whom have closing experience and can play a major role for the team going into the 2019 season. Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post states, “the primary offseason needs, whether Harper re-signs or not: catcher, second base, two starters and the bullpen. It’s not nothing. But it’s not impossible.”
The team knows that they must immediately turn the page on the 2018 season and start working towards 2019. With Dave Martinez and his whole coaching staff returning, they know they have something to prove to both the fans and the rest of the league. The big question still looms for the team, where will superstar Bryce Harper land?
The Nationals are ready to rev it up and show that they can be a perennial powerhouse in not only the regular season, but the playoffs as well. If the chapter closes on Bryce Harper’s career in the city that drafted him and raised him as a player, they must turn the page quickly.
The Nationals open up the 2019 season at home on March 28 against the New York Mets. Whether the team has a new look or not, their ultimate goal will be to hoist that trophy over their city and bring a championship which has been long awaited.