Chicago Cubs could face steep challenge if Washington Nationals play hard ball

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

If the Washington Nationals go all-in this offseason hoping to capitalize on one last year of Bryce Harper, the Chicago Cubs could be in trouble.

Most of the talk regarding the Washington Nationals this winter has focused around Bryce Harper.  The Nats’ outfielder enters 2018 on the last year of his current contract, meaning he’ll test free agency for the first time next offseason. Of course, more than a handful of folks believe he’s bound to join the Chicago Cubs and childhood friend Kris Bryant.

But what if his story in D.C. has a chapter yet to be written?

Don’t count out the Nationals next year. You’d be a fool to do so. The starting rotation boasts one of the best trios in the game in Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez. Offensively, Harper headlines a group including Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon.

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The Dusty Baker era drew to a prompt close at season’s end, ushering in a new time in Nationals baseball. Longtime Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez gets his shot – at long last. Joe Maddon‘s former right-hand man hopes to entice Harper to remain with the club moving forward.

Could Martinez capture some of Maddon’s magic and finally get the Nationals over the first-round hump in October? Stranger things have certainly happened.

But it gets worse if you’re here for the Chicago Cubs – which I assume you are, given this blog is dedicated to the team.

What if ownership opens up the purse strings this winter for one last all-in gamble?

The Washington Nationals simply can’t stand pat this winter. The fans, the city and the players themselves expect more. With their aforementioned three-headed monster atop the rotation, this team has the pieces to contend. What they need now are the final chips to get them to the World Series.

Former Cubs in the Nationals’ crosshairs?

Who, you might ask, are those two pieces? Former Chicago Cubs Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis.

That’s right. I know it seems far-fetched, but Washington could create one of the best starting rotations in recent memories with an Arrieta signing. Imagine having to go up against a Scherzer-Strasburg-Gonzalez-Arrieta rotation in best-of-five series. It’s not exactly a situation I feel warm and fuzzy about.

And the money is there. Most people forget Jayson Werth comes off the books at a steep $21 million salary. A four-year, $84 million deal could very well be enough to land Arrieta. Right there, the money works out which is usually the hardest part of these hypothetical situations.

On to Davis. As of right now, Sean Doolittle will close things out in the ninth. If you want to win a World Series, I wouldn’t be comfortable with that arrangement. More logical? Doolittle taking the ball in the eighth to set up Davis. There’s an ideal situation.

Davis was one of the best closers in the game last year and turning the Cubs’ former weapon against them would be sweet, sweet revenge.

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The Nationals don’t have to go this big. But if you want to convince a generational talent to finish his career with the team that drafted him, think bold. Harper is a top-caliber guy. Showing a willing-to-do-anything attitude might be just the thing to keep in in Washington for the next decade.