Designated for assignment and released by the Philadelphia Phillies at the end of Spring Training 2.0, Josh Harrison didn’t have to wait long to find a new home this past summer.
Six days after he was released by the Phils, the Washington Nationals signed the 33-year-old utility man.
“He became available,” manager Davey Martinez said of the signing.
“He’s a guy that can play multiple positions, right-handed bat, guy is full of energy that we felt could help us coming off the bench, spot start here and there in different positions.”
“He was a good addition we felt, for us,” Martinez added. “I think he’ll fit right in ... the way this season is going, the energy is — we need guy that energy and that spark. We feel like he can bring that.”
Harrison said he took the Nationals’ deal because they offered him a spot on the big league roster that wasn’t necessarily there elsewhere.
“The other places wanted me to get there, take my [COVID] test, and kind of see me for — I don’t know how long, maybe it was a couple days, a week, or whatever the case may be,” he explained.
“I was just ready to go somewhere that I knew needed help right away. And this was the best opportunity because they said we want you right away.
“It’s been a place, as I said, it’s been one of my favorite places to play and they’ve got a team that they won it all last year, and at the same time, yes, they may have lost some pieces, but they’re a team that knows how to win and are in a position to win. And I know I can come in, I’m healthy, and I’m ready to go wherever I can.”
Harrison ended up playing left field, right field, second, and third base for the Nationals, and at the plate the 10-year veteran, who’d been limited in recent seasons by a string of injuries, put up a .278.352.418 line, two doubles, three home runs, six walks, and 12 Ks in 26 games (15 starts) and 66 plate appearances, over which he was worth +0.2 fWAR.
His manager was appreciative of Harrison’s contributions.
“I’ve known him for many years and we’ve crossed paths and we always talked, and I’ve always told him, hey, if I ever get a manager’s job here, you’re the kind of player I love,” Martinez said in the last week of the 60-game COVID campaign.
“You bring that energy every day, you play multiple positions, you can hit everywhere in the lineup. I love those kind of guys. We were able — [GM] Mike [Rizzo] and I talked, he was free, we were able to get him here, and he’s just as advertised. He’s fun to be around, he understands the game, he’s a true constant every single day, you never have to tell him to be ready. He’s always ready, no matter what. He’s always ready for anything, any situation.
“For me, that’s what you want on this team. He fits in. He said what he likes about this team is we try to win every game. And nobody gives up, nobody quits, we’re always in every game, so I hope that we sit back at the end of this year when we start evaluating these things, and what we need, for me he’s somebody we need. I’d love to have him. He’s great with the young kids, so there will definitely be some conversations about him this winter.”
For Harrison, staying healthy in 2020 was a big deal after injuries limited his availability over the previous couple seasons.
He's ONLY 22!#Nationals | @Nationals | @JuanSoto25_ pic.twitter.com/jqg0fTqO1g— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) November 24, 2020
“You never know where you’re going to end up in this game, and I’m blessed,” Harrison said in the final week of September. “I was fortunate enough to find a situation like this when it didn’t work out with Philly, and I honestly couldn’t ask for a better place, a better group of guys. Guys have been banged up, but at the end of day, guys are showing up, playing, and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for, is that the guy next to you gives all they got.
“As I mentioned, man, I’m blessed, very fortunate to be here and I don’t take it lightly.”
Once the season ended, it didn’t take long for Martinez and Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office to decide to bring Harrison back, giving the veteran what is reportedly a new 1-year/$1M deal.
“It was exciting, more than anything,” Harrison said in an MLB Network Radio interview this week when asked about getting a deal done early in the offseason, “... considering how the past couple of years have gone, a little injury-ridden, had to kind of wait throughout the offseason, this past year was a good fit for me with Washington, and when they came and talked it felt like a good fit and there was no point for me to wait around. I knew that this offseason could be as crazy as the previous two given the current climate of everything going on.”
As for what he saw in his time in D.C. that made him want to come back?
“For one, they have fun, man,” Harrison said. “... and the minute I got there, talking to a few guys, it’s not a matter of who gets the credit. Egos are checked at the door. And it’s a place where you come and the only thing that matters at the end of the day is getting that W, no matter how it happens. It didn’t happen as often as we wanted it to this past year, but as far as the blend of the guys when I got there and the coaching staff, it was a good fit and I had a lot of fun with them. When they came back it was pretty much a no-brainer.”