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Why the Nationals Should Lock Up Strasburg, Harper to Long-Term Deals NOW

Robert WoodCorrespondent INovember 2, 2016

Why the Nationals Should Lock Up Strasburg, Harper to Long-Term Deals NOW

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    Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are the future of the Washington Nationals

    Strasburg will be the ace of a formidable starting rotation for years to come, and Bryce Harper will anchor the outfield and the lineup with his five-tool talent. The future is in good hands. 

    Here are seven reasons why the Washington Nationals need to quickly sign both players to long-term contracts to ensure the successful future of the franchise.

7. Get Them at a Discount

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    The Tampa Bay Rays signed prized third baseman Evan Longoria to a multi-year contract in 2008, the same season he won AL Rookie of the Year. This contract increases gradually from the initial salary of $500,000, reaching $2 million in 2011 and $6 million in 2013. 

    The contract also includes three club options through 2016, peaking at $11.5 million in the final year. Plus, the annual salary increases automatically in the event Longoria becomes eligible for salary arbitration. 

    Both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper will fetch a hefty price tag when they become free agents. But if the Washington Nationals act early like the Tampa Bay Rays did with Evan Longoria, they can save themselves money in the long run. 

6. Avoid Arbitration

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    Arbitration is messy, even if a contract dispute is ultimately settled without it. 

    During this past offseason, Tim Lincecum asked for a whopping $21.5 million in salary arbitration, just below Roger Clemens' record request of $22 million in 2005. The San Francisco Giants countered with an offer of $17 million, the highest arbitration offer ever made by a team. The two sides settled the dispute without arbitration, agreeing to a two-year deal worth $40 million, excluding the signing bonus. 

    San Francisco may have won the battle by avoiding arbitration, but Tim Lincecum won the war. The $18 million in the first year of the deal is more than the Giants offered, and the $22 million in the second year of the deal is more than he requested. 

    To avoid this tense and costly scenario, the Washington Nationals must sign both of these players to long-term deals before they become eligible for arbitration. 

5. Discourage Competitors

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    The buzzards will begin circling Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in short order, if they haven't already. 

    The New York Yankees always need starting pitchers. And the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies could both use a power hitter under the age of 30. 

    Plus, all three teams—and several others—have the fiduciary resources to sign Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper—or both. 

    By taking Strasburg and Harper off the market, the Washington Nationals will send a clear message to these vultures, forcing them to look elsewhere for vulnerable prey. 

4. Eliminate Distractions

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    Last season, the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans were held hostage by Albert Pujols and his prolonged contract negotiations. 

    The rumors and speculation began in spring training, dominated the regular season, and continued throughout the postseason, even managing to overshadow the Cardinals' 11th World Series victory in franchise history, a National League record. 

    This type of drama will multiply exponentially when both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are involved. The Washington Nationals can eliminate these unwanted distractions by signing these two young stars right now. 

3. Reassure the Fans

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    Baseball fans are fiercely loyal to their favorite teams and the players who play for them. 

    But they're not stupid. Baseball fans are well aware of the economic hierarchy of the sport, and where their team ranks in it. 

    As a result, fans of cash-strapped teams or those from smaller markets are understandably nervous about losing their star players to the teams with the deep pockets. 

    The Washington Nationals need to dig into their own pockets and let their fans know that they are serious about keeping this talented team intact. 

2. Lock Up the Core

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    Ryan Zimmerman is signed through 2019 with an option for 2020. 

    Jayson Werth is signed through 2017. 

    Gio Gonzalez is signed through 2016 with options through 2018. 

    The Washington Nationals have already locked up three valuable components of a championship nucleus. Now, they need to secure their future by locking up Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper with long-term deals as soon as possible, to significantly strengthen that nucleus. 

1. Win the World Series

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    The ultimate goal of a baseball team is not to draft highly-touted prospects, supervise the minor league careers of those same prospects, or even witness nationally-televised major league debuts. 

    The ultimate goal of a baseball team is to win the World Series. 

    With Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper signed to long-term contracts in the near future, the Washington Nationals can do just that. 

    Probably more than once. 

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