With the Washington Nationals’ playoff homes growing dimmer by the day, the closer the organization seemingly inches closer to the end of the Bryce Harper era.
The 25-year-old outfielder, who made his debut with the Nationals as a 19-year-old, will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, which draws to a close in a little over a week.
Harper quickly became the face of the Nationals franchise, winning an MVP Award in 2015 while hitting 184 home runs over seven seasons.
While he was able to fill out the individual stat sheet, he was never able to get the Nationals over the hump when it came to the postseason. Washington was tabbed to win a World Series or pennant for the past few years now. But they never got past the NLDS.
The lack of contention and prospect of a huge payday for Harper makes the Nationals a longshot to retain the star. Instead, he looks destined to join a club in a larger market.
Here are some of the teams that will make a serious play at him this winter:
Bryce Harper to the Yankees?
Left fielder Brett Gardner is on his way out the door while Giancarlo Stanton has proved that he can perform best as a designated hitter only. With Aaron Judge in right field and either Aaron Hicks or Clint Frazier in center in 2019, putting Harper in left would make the Yankees even more of an offensive juggernaut.
It just depends if the Steinbrenners don’t mind going over the luxury cap, which would definitely happen if they are paying Giancarlo Stanton and Harper, who could make somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 million.
Bryce Harper to the Dodgers?
The best way to retain Manny Machado, who is also a free agent this winter, is by surrounding him with even more young talent. Heading to Los Angeles would put either Joc Pederson or Yasiel Puig out of a job, but Harper is a talent who is averaging over 30 home runs over the past three-plus seasons.
Machado is going to have himself quite a significant payday as well, so it might be tough to get both players under contract on the same team.
Bryce Harper to the Cubs?
Jason Heyward hasn’t really been worth the exorbitant deal he inked prior to the 2016 season. An average of .276 with seven home runs and 52 RBI, which has been his best offensive season with the Cubs.
There’s little chance he would opt out of the eight-year, $184 million deal that has a player option at the end of 2018, but the Cubs might try everything possible to get his contract off the books to make a serious run at Harper.
Bryce Harper to the Phillies?
This is the surprise of the group but the Phillies might have the best shot to nab Harper this winter. According to Jon Heyman, MLB executives believe that the Phillies not only can get Harper, but also Machado in free agency.
They have the money and are on the cusp of something special with talents like Rhys Hoskins, Carlos Santana, Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera. Bring in Bryce Harper and suddenly the Phillies will be the team to beat in the NL East for years to come.