Bryce Harper rumors: Nationals ready to turn the page without prized free agent slugger

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is of course a pending free agent, and that means Wednesday's contest against the Marlins may be the last home game he ever plays as a member of the Nats. 

Harper is extremely young as six-year free agents go, and he has MVP upside. As well, he's buried those first-half struggles with some vintage numbers since the break (he's batting .298/.439/.546 in the second half). So he's going to make a lot of money this winter -- probably more than $400 million. 

Recently, Harper said he'd love to return to Washington despite his high price tag and despite the disappointments of 2018. However, CBS Sports HQ MLB analyst Jim Bowden isn't really buying it: 

"In all likelihood, the Nationals are ready to turn the page with the outfield already set without him [Harper] next year with Adam Eaton in right field, Victor Robles in center, and Juan Soto in left," Bowden said Tuesday night on CBS Sports HQ (video here and at the top of the story). 

Bowden also noted that Harper and GM Mike Rizzo are both saying the right things when it comes to leaving the door open for a return to D.C., but in reality things just may not line up. "Realistically we're hearing from ownership that they are not prepared to spend the kind of money or commit the years it's going to take to keep Harper, and in all likelihood he will be gone."

He's certainly correct that the Nationals look set in the outfield. They could always seek to trade Eaton in order to clear a spot for Harper, but, again, ownership's willingness to make such an investment is very much left to question. 

Bowden goes on to name-check the Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees, Phillies, and Braves as potentially being among Harper's strongest suitors in free agency. Those all make sense in terms of resources, existing payroll commitments, or some combination of the two. Whatever the case, the markets for Harper and fellow premium free agent Manny Machado should  make this the most compelling offseason in a long time. 

CBS Sports Writer

Dayn Perry has been a baseball writer for CBS Sports since early 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for FOXSports.com and ESPN.com. He's the author of three books, the most recent being Reggie Jackson: The... Full Bio

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