10/2/2018 0 Comments
By: Noah Wright
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The Nationals will potentially lose a superstar this upcoming off season with Bryce Harper hitting the open market. However, it’s clear that Harper hasn’t taken the possibility of returning to The Nation’s Capital off the table just yet. A signing of Bryce Harper could make The Nationals’ crowded outfield even more crowded. So what exactly could they do to fix that?
Let’s assume that The Nationals do resign Harper. In the unlikely chance that they do, The Nationals will have Harper, Adam Eaton, Victor Robles, Juan Soto, and Michael Taylor as outfield choices. The Nats would likely use Juan Soto and Harper in the corners, with Adam Eaton in center field, but even though Eaton excels usually in right field, he’d be move to centerfield, a position he hasn’t played adequately since 2014. Then The Nationals would have to make either Michael Taylor or Victor Robles the 4th outfielder. But between those two, the first one I’d try to shop is Michael Taylor. Taylor entered the season as one of The Nationals starting 3. Taylor did deserve a starting role after a decent 2017 campaign, when he showed a combination of speed with 17 steals, and power with 19 home runs. This season, that speed is still there, but that’s one of just 2 things that translated to 2018. His line went from .271/.320/.486 in 432 plate appearances with 104 wRC+ in 2017, to .227/.287/.358 with 71 wRC+ in 353 plate appearances. His defense has been pretty worthwhile like it was last year. In 2018, Taylor has played only centerfield, and has 10 DRS, 1.2 defensive WAR, and 3.4 UZR. Next year, Michael Taylor will be entering his age 28 season, so maybe packaged with a prospect, he can bring back a decent starter. The other thing they could do is shop Victor Robles, and keep Taylor around as the 4th outfielder, however I do think that trading him right now is on the unlikely side.
Now let’s look at what they should do if they don’t resign Harper. The likelist outfield combination would be Victor Robles in center, Adam Eaton in right, and Juan Soto in left field. After all, I think it’s time for the team to give Victor Robles some regular playing time. In Robles small sample showing in the bigs this year, he impressed. While it’s only 66 plate appearances, Robles still batted .288/.348/.525 with 3 home runs, and 3 stolen bases. Plus, he’s been known in the minors for his fielding. MLB.com’s top prospect list gives him a 70 fielding rating, and 70 arm rating, way above average. This would give The Nationals 2 options with Michael Taylor, make him the 4th outfielder, or trade him+a prospect or two for a starter, and sign another guy that could fill that 4th outfield role.
Maybe the best solution for The Nationals to do is let Harper walk. This would prevent a 21 year old who showed promise in the majors this season from being pushed to a 4th outfielder position, being sent to the minors to make room for other players, or even being traded. Plus giving Harper a 10 year contract worth upwards of $300 million could be detrimental to their future payroll. The $25-$30 million a year could be spent on fixing holes on the team, like some bullpen help, a second baseman, catcher, or a starting pitcher or two.