Nationals (sort of) move on from Bryce Harper: ‘Everyone can feel him’

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — On a blazing Presidents Day morning, the Washington Nationals encountered a moment they knew was possible for the better part of a decade – moving on from Bryce Harper.

Kind of.

“I think everyone can feel him,” says outfielder Adam Eaton before the Nationals’ first full-squad workout Monday. “He’s been a staple of our organization for six, seven years plus. You don’t just leave and not leave a little residue behind.

“You know that he, along with other players, built this organization to where it is today. He doesn’t just leave.”

Make no mistake: The odds of Harper’s return to the Nationals are significantly long. With various reports indicating negotiations for the 26-year-old superstar are picking up with the Philadelphia Phillies it could just be a matter of time before he’s officially an ex-Nat.

Then again, with super agent Scott Boras involved and the Nationals suddenly one of baseball’s standards for investing in premium talent, there’s always the chance for an 11th-hour circle back before any deal is signed.

And that creates a challenge for any Nationals who are more inclined to rip the Band-Aid off and roll headlong into the post-Harper era.

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While closure is elusive, his (probably) former teammates also are hoping Harper and fellow unsigned All-Star Manny Machado maximize their value in a financial climate where just nine free agents agreed to deals longer than two years as spring training began.

“We’re not waiting for him to walk through those doors right now,” says closer Sean Doolittle. “But we are paying attention to what people are talking about, some of the rumors out there.

“As much as he’d be a welcome addition to our lineup, I think we just want to see he and Manny and (former Cy Young winner Dallas) Keuchel and others get compensated fairly – in terms of what they bring to a team in terms of wins and revenue.”

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