Veteran infielder Josh Harrison was designated for assignment after it became clear that he was not going to make the Philadelphia Phillies’ roster out of Spring Training 2.0 in late July last summer, so he packed up his family and they all headed back to his home in Cincinnati, Ohio, while his agent looked for another deal for the 60-game 2020 campaign.
“Things didn’t work out in Philly,” Harrison told reporters last week, “and I remember, I was talking to a few teams, I was literally getting ready to sign with the Braves — I had drove home, my wife and my kids with me. I followed my wife, eight-hour drive, we left at like 4:00 in the morning, I’m getting ready to sign with the Braves, and I get 20 minutes from my house, and my agent calls and says, ‘How do you like being a National? They want you right now?’ I said, ‘I love it, I wish they would have called eight hours ago.’”
Harrison, 33, got up at 5:00 AM the next morning and drove to the nation’s capital, and six days after he was released by the Phils, the 10-year veteran joined the Nationals, for whom he put up a .278/.352/.418 line with two doubles and three home runs in 33 games and 91 plate appearances, over which he was worth 0.2 fWAR.
“From the minute that I was in D.C., clubhouse, coaching staff, it was a place that allowed me to be me,” Harrison said of his experience with the Nationals.
“I know there were some injuries and stuff that happened there, but I knew a few of the guys from playing against them, and I was able to come in and have fun, enjoy those guys, they let me be me. It was a good place to be.”
The feeling was mutual.
“He’s just as advertised,” manager Davey Martinez said this past summer. “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.”
“He fits in,” the Nats’ skipper continued. “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 [back]. He’s great with the young kids, so there will definitely be some conversations about him this winter.”
It didn’t take long.
The club worked out a new 1-year/$1M deal with Harrison back in late October, allowing him to focus on getting ready for 2021 instead of wondering where he’d play in 2021.
“When they came this offseason and offered, I wanted to make it official. Didn’t really want to play around with the offseason,” Harrison explained.
“It’s been a crazy year, but at the same time, this is a place that I enjoyed, liked the coaching staff, liked the players,” he said, “... so for me it really wasn’t a matter of seeing what was out there because it was a place where I wanted to be.”
Harrison spent eight seasons in Pittsburgh, after the Pirates acquired him from the Chicago Cubs who’d drafted him in the 6th Round in 2008, but he became a free agent in 2018, and signed on with Detroit in 2019, though he was limited by a hand injury which eventually did require surgery.
Getting a deal done quickly with Washington was big for the veteran.
“I had already known what to expect given the past two years I was a free agent,” Harrison said.
“2019 I was a free agent and didn’t expect to wait around as long as I did before I signed in Detroit,” in late February.
“I signed there, Spring Training games had already started, and that wasn’t due to me waiting around saying I wanted a three-year deal, that literally was the first offer I got.
“And that was in that part of February. Last year, I’m coming off a surgery where I’m like I know I’m going to have to go somewhere and show them I’m healthy.
“I ended up signing with Philly I think right like the first day of free agency when it hit for me.
“They were very adamant, they kept calling, and it was a place — veteran clubhouse — it was cool to be, things didn’t work out there, I got to D.C., and as I said, in my limited time there, it just felt organic with the coaching staff and even the players, man, they made me feel welcome and ... I’ve been a free agent the past two offseasons. I already knew what to expect, not that if I had to go through it again, I wouldn’t have, but as I said, it was a place I was happy and it made sense for me, a situation where they felt they wanted me, I wanted to be back, and the rest was history.
“If I really wanted to sit around and talk to other teams, I would have, but I’ve done that the past couple years, found a place that wanted me, and a place that I wanted to be and I like it.”