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Solano catching on with Nats

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Solano catching on with Nats

Some Thursday morning leftovers and look-aheads as you get back to the grind following what hopefully was an enjoyable and safe Independence Day...

-- Jhonatan Solano was summoned to make his big-league debut five weeks ago, only after a string of injuries befell four players ahead of him on the Nationals' catching depth chart. These days, there's little reason to believe he'll be heading back to the minors anytime soon.

Solano has proven to be an unexpected surprise for the Nationals, a 26-year-old rookie who not only calls a good game behind the plate but has some legitimate skills at the plate.

With a homer and a single during yesterday's 9-4 win over the Giants, Solano raised his batting average to .393 (11-for-28). He's got two homers, three doubles, six RBI and an 1.128 OPS. Not bad for the Nationals' fifth-string catcher.

"I've said before, I've never seen such depth in catching as in this organization," manager Davey Johnson said. "From Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, Solano, Sandy Leon, Carlos Maldonado ... I mean, all of them are great receivers, catch and throw, block balls great. And all of them have good bat potential. I've never been in an organization, and it's my fifth one, anywhere close to that."

The hilariously nicknamed "Onion" -- he traveled from his native Colombia to Venezuela for a tryout with the Nationals on a bus with a bushel of onions on the seat next to him -- still isn't quite sure what to make of his good fortune. A career .251 hitter in the minors, he's taking pride in the fact he hasn't been overwhelmed by big-league pitching and that he's contributing to a first-place club.

"I feel great right now because everyone's playing good," he said. "It's a little pressure, but I try to do everything good because I don't want to look like: 'Oh, he's the only guy that can do nothing.'"

The more Solano shows he can hold his own at this level, the more starts he's likely to get behind the plate. Johnson has wanted to gives Flores most rest and not burn out his starting catcher before season's end. With Solano establishing himself more and more, that shouldn't be a problem.

-- Chad Tracy began his rehab assignment for Class A Potomac last night and put together a couple of productive at-bats. The veteran corner infielder went 0-for-3 but delivered a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat and later drew a 10-pitch walk.

Tracy, who led the club with a .333 batting average and nine RBI as a pinch-hitter, has been out since late-May with a torn groin muscle. What initially was feared as a potential season-ending injury hasn't proven nearly as serious. Tracy figures spend the rest of the week on rehab but could be activated off the disabled list in time for the Nationals' second-half opener July 13 in Miami.

-- Don't adjust your eyeglasses or TV screens tonight when you check out the series final between the Nationals and Giants. Things might look a tad different, because both clubs will be wearing 1924 throwback uniforms, commemorating the only World Series championship in Washington baseball history.

The team uniforms won't be the only throwback elements to the game. The grounds crew, according to a Nationals press release, will be dressed in "full 1920s attire." The scoreboard will have a 1924 look to it, and traditional organ music will be played between innings. Also, the ceremonial first pitch will be performed with an actual ball from Game 6 of the '24 World Series and will be thrown from behind the first-base dugout as it used to be done.

-- Finally, here's your staggering fact of the day: When play begins around baseball today, the NL's two best records will belong to the Washington Nationals (47-32) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (45-36). Who had THAT predicted on Opening Day?

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Bryce Harper's contract demand reportedly forcing Nationals to move on after 2018

Bryce Harper's contract demand reportedly forcing Nationals to move on after 2018

It is no secret that Bryce Harper's next contract could very well be the largest contract in baseball history.

The 2015 N.L. MVP has reprotedly been looking for something in the realm of 10 years, $400 million.

The Nationals would love to keep the cornerstone of their franchise, but with Harper garnering such a monumental price tag, the team may have no other choice but to move on when his contract expires in 2018.

With the MLB winter meetings taking place at the National Harbor in Oxen Hill, Md. this week, talks of Harper's contract situation have arisen again, and according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the news might not be good for Nationals fans. 

The Washington Nationals, balking at Bryce Harper’s demands in early talks about a long-term contract extension, now are preparing themselves to be without their All-Star outfielder after 2018, a high-ranking Nationals executive told USA TODAY Sports.

The executive spoke to USA TODAY Sports on Monday only on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.

Agent Scott Boras says the only active negotiations of late have involved a one-year deal in 2017. Harper, who made $5 million last season, is eligible for salary arbitration.

RELATED: NATIONALS DECLINE TO TENDER CONTRACT ON SPEEDY OUTFIELDER

Harper is one of Major League Baseball's top stars but with the Nationals already investing $84.7 million in 2019 salaries to Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman, the money just might not be there for the Nationals to spend. 

The Nationals, who had begun preliminary negotiations this year to retain Harper beyond 2018, believe the chasm in their talks now have become too great to overcome. While no specific dollar amount has been broached by high-powered agent Scott Boras, the executive says Harper is seeking a deal more than 10 years in length, believing it would exceed $400 million.

The Nationals' reported mood toward moving on from Harper after 2018 could explain why the Nationals are aggressively pursuing former N.L. MVP Andrew McCutchen and former A.L. Cy Young award winner Chris Sale. 

In the grand scheme, not much has changed. Harper was always expected to command the largest cotnract on the market. But the latest news shines a light on the possible direction of the Nationals' front office. 

2018 is still a long ways away, but this could be an early sign of things to come, one Nationals fans have been hoping they would never have to see. 

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New York Daily News puts Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in Yankees uniforms

New York Daily News puts Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in Yankees uniforms

You can always count on the New York Daily News to run an audacious cover. The tabloid delivered again Friday with an image edited to show two of the league's best young hitters in Yankees pinstripes: Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper and Orioles short stop Manny Machado. 

"Bats to the Future" is exactly the headline you'd expect, too.  

It's hard to tell what's more odious to Washington and Baltimore fans: the image itself or the suggestion that baseball's new collective bargaining agreement makes it easier for the Yankees to poach their stars. 

The premise of that argument comes from sources who say the new CBA contains two changes beneficial to New York: reduced revenue sharing burden (due to tweaks in how sharing is calculated, plus a deduction for the cost of building and running Yankee Stadium) and an increased luxury tax threshold. 

Without going into number crunching detail, the Daily News explains how the club could afford Harper and/or Machado when they become free agents after the 2018 season. 

The article's tone of inevitability, despite its many assumptions, will rankle fans of all 29 other teams. After all, the Yankees aren't the only franchise interested in Harper and Machado. 

The Nationals and Orioles will presumably try to keep their stars. But to do that, they may have to fend off potentially historic money from the Bronx. 

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