Last night, Bryce Harper and the Nationals played their final home game in a lost season. As Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes, it was somewhat anticlimactic — and, for the same reason, perhaps appropriate for a club that has fallen well short of expectations.
To this point, both Harper and the Nats have expressed ample mutual admiration. But there’s no particular reason to think that the sides will line up on a late-breaking extension to keep Harper from reaching free agency. While that can’t be ruled out entirely, it seems far likelier that the 25-year-old will be issued, and will then decline, a qualifying offer.
Of course, the relationship could be re-started from the open market. Harper clearly seems open to considering a return, at least, and the team surely isn’t eager to part with a franchise-altering superstar. At the same time, practicalities — including the allure of other teams (and contract offers), on the one hand, and a ready-made replacement outfield unit in DC, on the other — could well make this an opportune moment for both sides to wish the other a fond farewell.
There’s time yet to consider Harper’s place in the broader market, including contract valuation and the best potential suitors. We’ll be assessing that closely over the coming months. For now, it seems a more appropriate time to gauge the sense of MLBTR readers on a simpler question — Harper’s likelihood of returning to the Nats — in a thoroughly unscientific manner. How would you characterize the situation as the ’18 campaign draws to a close?