Analysis: What Bryce Harper’s deal could mean for the Nationals

After a winter of wondering, Harper has landed.

Free agent Bryce Harper has agreed to a 13-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies worth a record $330 million.

Instead of an amicable split where the one-time face of the franchise heads west to play for San Francisco or the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Washington Nationals poster boy is headed to the team’s NL East neighbor to the north.

Instead of dealing with thoughts of what could have been for one or two series a summer, Nats fans get to face Harper 19 times over the next decade-plus. He’ll be wearing a different shade of red … with a curly P on his cap. Phreaking Phantastic.

It’s never ideal to lose a six-time All Star and former league MVP, but the Nationals have constructed their club in a manner to minimize Harper’s departure.

The emergence of Juan Soto last year provided unexpected depth, and the 20-year-old will be the team’s left fielder of the present and future. Taking over in right will be veteran Adam Eaton, now two years removed from a knee injury that hijacked his 2017 season. Prime prospect Victor Robles is the future in center field, with Michael A. Taylor being able to provide defensive depth at all three positions.

The absence of Harper in the lineup is not ideal, but not having him on the payroll will benefit the long-term sculpting of the roster under Nats General Manager Mike Rizzo.

Anthony Rendon is due to become a free agent next year, and all things being equal, an offensive third baseman with sharp defensive skills is much harder to find and develop than an outfielder. Moving forward, having Rendon on this team for the remainder of their playoff-contending window is more important than having Harper on this team in 2026.

The Phillies get the free agent boost they were looking for this offseason; last year’s team won 80 games but faded down the stretch. They also ranked 22nd in the majors in runs scored.

Harper will bat third in a revamped lineup along with offseason acquisitions J.T. Realmuto and Andrew McCutchen. After a few years of building and retooling, the Phillies are ready to win now — just like the Nationals have been doing this decade.

The balance of NL East power began to shift in 2011 when the Nats signed Jayson Werth away from the Phillies; after winning 102 games that year and losing in the NLDS, the Phils have not posted a winning record — while the Nats posted a winning mark every year since going 80-81 in 2011.

Oh, and by the way … for those curious, Bryce Harper and his new team come to Nationals Park for the first time this season on April 2. Who’s ready for a reunion?

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