Righty Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper — arguably the Nationals’ two most important players — are both on track to participate in a full and normal Spring Training in 2017, agent Scott Boras tells Jon Morosi of MLB Network (Twitter links). That appears to be positive news for the Nats, who went without the former for the postseason and endured persistent whispers that the latter was dealing with shoulder problems.
In the case of Strasburg, Boras says that he’s expected to be capable of maintaining a typical offseason throwing program in advance of camp in February. The key rotation piece, who inked a $175MM extension early in the 2016 season, was diagnosed with a flexor mass strain in his right forearm. He had at least been throwing to keep open the possibility of a postseason appearance, had the Nats advanced, though that never seemed particularly likely. Needless to say, Washington’s outlook for 2017 and beyond depends quite a bit on whether it receives a healthy and effective Strasburg.
As for Harper, the superstar will begin his usual offseason strength and conditioning program, according to Boras. That’s essentially non-news, but it seemingly confirms that there’s no significant shoulder health issue that was left unaddressed during the preceding season — as a pair of reports from SI’s Tom Verducci had suggested. Or, at least, it suggests that any such issue can be resolved without resorting to any treatment or procedure that would disrupt Harper’s normal workout routine.
Still, some mystery seemingly endures. The Nats maintained all along that they were not aware of any such injury, and even reportedly posed the question directly to Harper — who said he was healthy. Boras declined comment on the subject despite having weighed in on several other notable clients’ own health matters in recent years, raising some eyebrows. Now, Morosi says on Twitter that Boras has previously confirmed an injury, citing a recent story from Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. His comments there were seemingly ambiguous: Boras noted that Harper “played with limitations at times” but also seemingly hinted that those were not necessarily related to a specific, ongoing physical ailment (let alone one that wasn’t being publicly acknowledged or addressed).
Whatever is truly going on, it appears that Harper’s health won’t be a limitation as he looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2016 season. The 24-year-old was still solid overall for the Nats, with a .243/.373/.441 batting line and 24 home runs, but he fell off badly after a torrid start and didn’t come close to his productivity in the prior year. In 2015, Harper won the NL MVP award after swatting 42 long balls and slashing a ridiculous .330/.460/.649. Whether he can return to being that kind of force could go a long way toward deciding the Nationals’ fortunes in 2017 — and shaping the course of his own future.