The hard truth about Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton

Chris Lingebach
September 06, 2018 - 6:52 pm

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS/Sipa USA

A simple response from Mike Rizzo on Tuesday may have revealed a lot about the Nationals' future plans in the outfield.

During his weekly appearance with The Sports Junkies – sponsored by Burke & Herbert Bank – the Nats GM was asked a series of questions about the outfield, the answers to which could reflect the club's internal thinking about how to brace for a potential Harper exit in the offseason.

Asked if Victor Robles is a center or right fielder, Rizzo said, "He is a consummate center fielder. Great range. Great angles. Great defense. And he can really play it."

Next Rizzo was asked about Adam Eaton, who manned center field when he arrived in Washington via trade in 2017. Eaton has since relocated to right, with Harper taking over center field duties.

"Do you envision Eaton going forward as a right fielder or center fielder," Rizzo was asked.

"Eaton's probably, at this point in his career – especially with that injury – a corner outfielder," he said. "He can really play right field. He was ranked really elite right field defensively when he was with the White Sox. I think with the at-bats he gives you and the leadership at the top of the lineup, he's a guy that we're going to count on moving forward."

That leaves left field, currently inhabited by Rookie of the Year candidate Juan Soto.

If Harper signs elsewhere in free agency, the Nationals are covered. But if they do have genuine interest in re-signing him, that creates a logjam in the outfield. A good problem, to be sure. But with four talented everyday outfielders, and Eaton under team control through 2021, the hard truth is either Harper or Eaton will have to go. One way or another.

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