February 2019

Goodbye, Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper is now a Philadelphia Phillie. Ew.

After months and months of waiting and anticipation, the inevitable has happened. Yes, finally, after months of speculation, cryptic tweets, and seemingly new rumors every single day, Bryce Harper is a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. The 26-year old who has known no other team but Washington in his six-year career, is now moving to a fierce division rival up I-95 in the Phillies. On Thursday afternoon, it was reported that Philadelphia had signed Bryce Harper to a whopping contract of 13 years and $330 million, without any opt-outs and a full no-trade clause. In this piece, I’ll offer my dissection of the monster deal Bryce just signed and what it means for the Nationals for the future.

Bryce Harper, by signing this contract with the Phillies, became the highest-paid player in the history of American sports, getting $5 million more than Giancarlo Stanton did when he signed his extension with the Miami Marlins in the 2014 offseason. As mentioned before, he will be a Philadelphia Phillie for the next 13 years at a $25 million dollar AAV, or average annual value. In my personal opinion, for the Phillies financially, this is a terrible contract to offer. In thirteen years, Bryce Harper will be 39 years old. I will be 27 years old, and when Bryce Harper made his debut for the Nationals in 2012, I was just 7. 13 years ago, Bryce Harper was 13 years old. Could this contract end up being a waste of John Middleton’s “stupid money”, where he acquires a player who has suffered from inconsistency and rocky patches in the duration of his career? Could this end up becoming another albatross, Bobby Bonilla style contract where the Phillies pay Bryce Harper to underperform in his late thirties? Look at players today like Felix Hernandez and Jordan Zimmermann, who make upwards of $20 million per year to be their respective teams’ #3 starters. The Phillies also have upcoming contracts to give to important players like J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, and are almost certainly going to make a run for Mike Trout, a southern New Jersey native and an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan. Is giving north of $300 million a good investment when you have these contracts to potentially sign in the next few years? Also, the Phillies don’t have a deep prospect pool, having only two prospects on the top 100 list, even though they had the first overall selection just a few years prior. Is making a “win now” move worth it when your aging players will have weaker replacements? These questions would obviously be best answered by Phillies owner John Middleton or GM Matt Klentak, but I personally believe that it’s too much of a boom-bust contract without any way out for the team. If this gamble doesn’t work out, the Phillies are in an awful situation, paying Bryce Harper almost $25 million with the inability to trade him or have an opt-out option exercised.

But secondly, and most importantly for folks this side of the Mason-Dixon Line, where does this

YUCK. Graphic via Sports Illustrated

leave the Nationals? Many fans, including myself, had picked up the notion that Bryce Harper was leaving and came to view it as inevitable. However, once it becomes real, there’s a sense of sentimentality that comes with the signing. Really? The Philadelphia Phillies? The team whose fans used to flock and flood Nationals Park before you came around, leading to our ballpark earning the moniker “Citizens Bank Park South”? The team whose best pitcher beaned you in the back during your rookie season in an attempt to get you to “show some class”? The fans, who on the dawn of your signing with the team you will don the colors of for the next thirteen years, were making promises to spit in his face the first time he visited Citizens Bank Park as a member of the Giants or Dodgers? That’s a clown move, bro. But while Bryce is getting booed in his brand new home ballpark for the next thirteen years, the Nationals still have a formidable team going into the new season. This will allow Victor Robles to have a starting position in center field to start the season. He will join 20-year old Juan Soto and Adam Eaton in the outfield, which is an exceptional outfield, especially after the loss of a perennial all-star. A Nationals lineup without Bryce Harper will probably look like this-

1- Trea Turner (SS)

2- Juan Soto (LF)

3- Anthony Rendon (3B)

4- Yan Gomes (C)

5- Victor Robles (CF)

6- Brian Dozier (2B)

7- Adam Eaton (RF)

8- Ryan Zimmerman (1B)

9- Pitcher (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, or Joe Ross/Erick Fedde)

Although it is still strange to imagine a Harper-less Nationals team, the team Mike Rizzo was able to create this offseason is pretty impressive. They were able to get Yan Gomes, Brian Dozier, and reliever Kyle Barraclough for very cheap. Some MLB insiders say that the Nationals could also go after Craig Kimbrel, who remains a free agent. That would allow the Nationals to have a bullpen with Kimbrel and Barraclough acting alongside Trevor Rosenthal, Sean Doolittle, and Koda Glover. Imagine going from the last few years of having the bullpen be a liability to the best in baseball in just one year. Nevertheless, although the Phillies and Braves remain threats in the division, the Nationals are incredibly well-rounded and have set up shop as a team which is poised to win its’ first title without its’ former franchise face this year.

The Harper signing sucks. It will be bizarre to see Bryce Harper in a jersey other than a Nationals one, especially a Phillies jersey. It will be bizarre to hear the PA announcer at Nationals Park announce Bryce Harper’s name without the enthusiasm we’ve heard him announce it with for the past 6 years. Everything will take some getting used to. But Bryce Harper is now a Philadelphia Phillie, and the world will keep spinning. In Washington, we will not boo you when you step up to the plate on April 2, we will give you a standing ovation to commemorate your incredible efforts to turn around Washington from a city with a baseball team consistently in the basement of the division into a perennial winner. We love you, Bryce Harper. But, to put it mildly, we just don’t love the Phillies, or Philadelphia.

Kid Correspondent- Recapping the Yankees’ Offseason

Editor’s Note- This is the first post written by a MattsBats.com Kid Correspondent. I developed this program to help kids interested in sportswriting learn from the experiences I gained from starting Matt’s Bats.  This is a forum for them to gain writing experience and show off their work. If you, your child, or anyone you know may be interested in becoming a Kid Correspondent, email me at correspondents@mattsbats.com!

Today’s post comes from Daniel W. of Maryland. Daniel is an eighth grader and has a lifelong love for sports, and for the Yankees in particular. 

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Recapping the Yankees’ Offseason- By Daniel

The New York Yankees had a busy offseason, but less busy than what was expected. The Yankees are the richest baseball franchise, and are also valued the highest by Forbes. Many media pundits thought the Yankees were going to make a pursuit for big name free agents such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, or even improve their pitching by getting Patrick Corbin. However, that didn’t end up happening. Manny Machado recently signed a ten-year contract with the San Diego Padres.  Patrick Corbin is one of the newest members of the Washington Nationals. And although the baseball world is awaiting news from Bryce Harper, his name is not being linked to New York.

Although they didn’t get any of the biggest names this offseason, here’s the additions the Yankees made to their roster this winter:

The first big move that they made was on October 31, when outfielder Brett Gardner re-signed a contract for one year, $7.5 million. A couple days later, they re-signed veteran pitcher CC Sabathia to a one year, $8 million contract. This was a good PR move, in my opinion, rather than a good signing move, because they wanted CC to retire as a Yankee.

James Paxton was acquired by the Yankees in arguably their largest offseason move. Photo via MLB

On November 19, they acquired pitcher James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Justus Sheffield (their #1 pitching prospect), Erik Swanson, and Dom Thompson-Williams. I think this was a good trade for the Yankees because they got there clear number two starter, and now have a much better “starting three” pitching rotation if they should make it to the postseason.

Next, in December, they resigned pitcher J.A. Happ to a two-year, $34 million dollar contract.

January was the biggest month for the Yankees. It started out by signing shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a one-year, $555,000 contract. This is considered a very low contract for someone who was once one of the best players in baseball and a five time All-Star, a two time Gold Glover, and a two time Silver Slugger winner. However, he is very much past his prime, and has been dealing with injuries for a while now. He is more of a rental since the Yankees star shortstop Didi Gregorius is dealing with an injury.

Next, they re-signed reliever Zach Britton to a three-year, $39 million contract. A couple days later, they signed second basemen DJ LeMahieu to a two year, $24 million contract. Signing LeMahieu ended up putting the Yankees out of the mix for Manny Machado, who waited until Spring Training started to sign with the Padres.

Their final move of the offseason was singing reliever Adam Ottavino to a three-year, $27 million contract, adding to their bullpen depth, which arguably has the best closer in baseball, Aroldis Chapman.  Chapman had 32 saves last year, while posting a 1.05 WHIP, and a 2.45 ERA. The Yankees’ bullpen also has Zach Britton, how is a two time All Star, who also was the American League Reliever of the Year and saves leader in 2016. Another key player in their bullpen is Dellin Betances, who had 115 strikeouts in 66 games last year. If you add former first round draft pick Adam Ottavino to that mix, you have yourself a dangerously good bullpen.  

Overall, I think that the Yankees offseason went well. It didn’t go as well as some would have wanted, as star reliever Dellin Betances noted, but they now arguably have the best bullpen rotation in the league, and they have much better starting pitching, which they desperately needed.  For those Yankees fans upset the team didn’t sign Manny Machado as their star third baseman, remember that Nolan Arenado is going to be a free agent next year!

Introducing The Future of MattsBats.com

I started Matt’s Bats in July 2012.  I was an eight year old super-fan of the Washington Nationals.  My mom offered to let me stay up later on Nationals game days if I would write her a paragraph about what happened in the game.  To incentivize me to give my best effort, we started a website and social media account to publish my posts and called it Matt’s Bats.  As my love for both journalism and baseball continued to grow, I got a larger audience and more credibility as a reporter and pundit. Major League Baseball anointed me their youngest Pro Blogger and gave me space for a column on their website, as did MASN Sports.  I was invited to do live TV appearances on Fox 5, Washington DC’s local Fox affiliate.  I’ve interviewed dozens of baseball players, Hall of Famers, and other celebrities (including the baseball journalists and broadcasters who I admired and tried to emulate).  I was invited to cover games at numerous ballparks across the country (17 of them, to be exact), and have enjoyed learning about baseball from the perspective of a fan in the stands, a credentialed reporter in the press box and clubhouse, and an insider in the cinder block bowels of the stadiums.  I was a guest and reporter at some pretty cool events, including the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports Awards in Los Angeles.  Perhaps the greatest honors were invitations to join the press pool covering several amazing events at The White House, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony and several World Series and NBA Finals team visits.  Maybe it was raising tens of thousands of dollars for charity and raising awareness for causes like lung cancer and Type 1 Diabetes. All this while I was in elementary and middle school!  Nevertheless, it is absolutely incredible to look back on the incredible opportunities I have experienced at such a young age.  I have been privileged to share these experiences with the thousands of readers who I have written for an interacted with over the past six and a half years.

You may have noticed that the frequency of my posts have declined now that I am in high school. (No, I can’t believe it either!)  I have homework and extracurricular activities competing for my time. I have also developed new passions, including a deep interest in politics, law and civic engagement.  I will always be a baseball fan, in addition to pursuing my other ambitions.

This is NOT an announcement of the end of Matt’s Bats.  It is the announcement of a new chapter. I hope the site grows as I take on the new role of Executive Editor.  I want to use the platform I developed to give a voice to other kids who are interested in sports journalism. Therefore, I am very excited to debut the all-new MattsBats.com Kid Correspondent Program.

I will be offering space on MattsBats.com and my social media platforms to a new generation of kid sports writers.  I want to teach other children what I have learned, including how to write engaging posts, how to prepare for and interview subjects, how to responsibly use social media, and how to give an interview.  These are things I learned on my own and now want to share with other kids. I need my readers’ help to find me talented and ambitious new writers.

Whether someone you know wants to improve their writing skills, loves sports, or wants a platform to have their voice heard, I want to help.  If you know any kid who fits under any of the criteria above, I’d love to mentor and eventually feature their work on MattsBats.com. Obviously, kids of different ages and experiences will have different abilities, but everyone has the ability to improve through hard work and perseverance.  It doesn’t matter what sport or team they want to write about, what’s important is their enthusiasm and desire to report, write, learn and improve.

If you know someone interested in being a MattsBats.com Kid Correspondent, feel free to use the “Contact Matt’s Bats” tab on my website, or email me directly at correspondents@mattsbats.com.   

While I hope to focus on mentoring and editing, you can be sure that when something big happens in the baseball world, I will still be writing and reporting.  But I want to give other kids a chance to share their voices on the platform I created. Please get in contact with me if you are interested!