Bryce Harper hit .286/.406/.714 with nine home runs through March and April with more walks (17) than strikeouts (13), and opposing pitchers seemed afraid to challenge him, a trend that peaked in early May when the Cubs walked him six times over seven plate appearances in one game. Nagging injuries began to pile up though, particularly to his neck and shoulder, and by the second half he seemed to be a shell of his usual self as he hit just .226/.336/.373 with five home runs after the All-Star break. Harper recorded the first 20-20 season of his career and walked more than 100 times for the second straight year, but the end result wasn't close to what anyone expected. With a full offseason to rest and recover, Harper should be able to come out taking and raking in 2017, and given Trea Turner's emergence and the addition of Adam Eaton ahead of him in the order, health could be the only thing standing between Harper and another MVP-caliber campaign.
Harper signed a one-year, $13.625 million deal with the Nationals on Friday, avoiding arbitration, FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reports. This is Harper's second to last season before he hits free agency after the 2018 campaign. He received a healthy bump in pay from the $5 million he earned in 2016. While he is coming off a bit of a down year that was dragged down by injuries, Harper will still cost a premium as a late first-round pick in most drafts this season.
Harper is doing fine physically and is on track to begin his normal offseason strength and conditioning work soon, according to agent Scott Boras, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports. The 24-year-old's uneven play throughout the summer months led to much speculation about his health, and Sports Illustrated reported in September that Harper had indeed been playing through a neck/shoulder issue for a significant portion of the season. While manager Dusty Baker strongly denied the report, Boras recently confirmed to the Washington Post that Harper "played with limitations at times this year, no question."
Harper is batting second for Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic reports. Harper has been a staple in the Nationals three-hole all season, but with Daniel Murphy returning to the lineup and tough left-hander Clayton Kershaw toeing the rubber for Los Angeles, manager Dusty Baker decided to mix things up and move the reigning MVP up in the order. This could put Harper in line for more run-scoring opportunities with Jayson Werth and Murphy hitting behind him.
Harper (thumb) is in the lineup Friday against the Marlins, radio play-by-play announcer Charlie Slowes reports. Harper had sat out the previous four games with a thumb injury, and with the Nationals already clinching the NL East title it wasn't a given that he'd return before the end of the regular season. He's apparently recovered enough though, as he'll slot back into the starting lineup to open up the final series of the year, manning his usual responsibilities in right field and batting third against Miami starter Andrew Cashner.
Harper (thumb) is out of Thursday's lineup against the Diamondbacks, CSN Mid-Atlantic's Chase Hughes reports. This doesn't come as a major surprise, as the Nationals are being cautious with their star right fielder with the division sewn up. Thursday marks the fourth game in a row that Harper will miss with the thumb injury, with Michael Taylor getting the start in right field.