Opening Day is 16 days away, which is surprisingly close given that the longest free agency of all time still hasn’t really ended. (On another note, when are the Nats going to sign Dallas Keuche or Craig Kimbrel or every other free agent all at once?)
Here’s the news from West Palm:
New Philadelphia Phillie Bryce Harper on rejecting $300 million, recruiting Mike Trout and playing in Philly for life (ESPN)
Harper, unsurprisingly, got sick of the idea that he was leaving wherever he was playing — though he places some blame on the Nationals, saying that he "didn't know if [he] fit into their plans." (Apparently, a $100 million retirement fund wasn't really enough, though he did buy his dad back an old family heirloom they sold to fund Bryce's baseball career.)
Bryce Harper Who? The Nationals Are a Prime Ewing Theory Candidate. (The Ringer)
The Nationals, in case you didn't know, never won a playoff series with Bryce Harper on the roster. But that could change with this year's Juan Soto-and-Anthony Rendon-led Nationals, if guys like Kurt Suzuki and Victor Robles step up and Stephen Strasburg is able to bounce back and stay healthy. There are a ton of moving parts, but they may click without Harper in the middle of it all, finding more clutch hitting and feeling less pressure.
Trea Turner may never think he is good enough, and that means he will only get better (WaPo)
Turner was incredibly frustrated with himself last season, expecting everything and getting less. He wants to hit .290 with 20 homers and 50 steals. He may want to hit leadoff, and he could fit there. He could make the Nats more successful at small ball. But he never got comfortable last year, and that'll be the hurdle to jump this year.
Luis Garcia could be the Nationals’ next fast-tracked teenager (WaPo)
Garcia was running errands with his mom when he got the call: he was going to Major League camp. He still has braces. He is the only 18-year-old in any major league camp this spring. He's the 3rd best prospect in Washington, and the 81st-best in baseball — and if Soto and Harper serve as any reminder, Mike Rizzo is never afraid to fast-track a young gun. The only issue — there's not much room for him at this moment or in the future, though it hasn't affected his confidence.
Max Scherzer gets Opening Day nod, to face Jacob deGrom (MLB.com)
It's the first time the first and second highest vote-receivers for the previous year's Cy Young will face off on Opening Day since 1979.
Scherzer to start Nats' opener, face Mets' deGrom (AP)
"I'm going to go out on a limb today and tell you that Max will be our Opening Day starter. How's that?" Martinez said.
Soto-rific: Only 20, Nationals’ Juan Soto prepares to be even better the second time around (The Athletic)
Matt LeCroy delivered the news to the whole team in about five minutes: Juan Soto would head to the big leagues. In intervals around that size, Soto has soaked in Major League baseball: its stadiums, its quirks, and its challenges. (Interestingly, contrary to what was popular opinion at the time, Mike Rizzo made it clear to Davey Martinez that Soto should play often.)
Nationals spring training minor league games begin March 15 (MASN)
The backfield games will begin with the Marlins' affiliates on the backfields of West Palm Beach. They're free to the public, so you'll be able to check out the future of the team if you get a minute.
Scherzer extends to 75 pitches, officially gets opening day nod (MASN)
Scherzer threw 5.1 innings that were marred by misplays and defensive errors, and still said that he was happy to throw a few stressful innings to build strength.
Kendrick resumes light work but faces tight timeline (MASN)
Kendrick is riding a bike and taking cuts, while Koda Glover (surprise, surprise) hasn't resumed activity.
Juan Soto focusing on improving defense (MLB.com)
The advanced metrics really did not like Juan Soto last year, which would make sense, given that he had only recorded 58 innings there before heading to the majors. He thinks he's improved, and with his work ethic, it seems likely that he'll get there.
These are the 6 toughest clubs to predict in '19 (MLB.com)
The best case: Patrick Corbin follows up on his 2018, Victor Robles shines, and the Nats take the East. Worst-case, they finish fourth in a stacked NL East.
Martinez on Nats' bullpen: 'We can be flexible' (MLB.com)
Wander Suero will likely grab a spot, but Koda Glover's spot remains up in the air, and Sammy Solis is gone — so Vidal Nuño, Jimmy Cordero, or Aaron Barrett could grab the spot.
Washington Nationals team speed will help in 2019 (MLBcom)
The Nationals will be the fourth-fastest team in the majors, per Statcast — and if they use it to their benefit, they could be lethal on the basepaths and with stolen bases — think Rendon, Brian Dozier, Robles, Adam Eaton, Turner, and the other sneaky fast members of the squad.