The Nationals do not expect Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper to require any kind of offseason surgery, according to people familiar with the situation.
News of surprise surgeries often emerges during the first weeks after the regular season, particularly for players who endured uncharacteristic struggles or dealt with a nagging problem that was never quite resolved. Harper fits the former category, Strasburg the latter. For now, neither all-star is expected to require surgery, according to people within the organization and without.
Harper did not spend a single day on the disabled list, which did not mollify concerns stoked by a Sports Illustrated report that said the 24-year-old dealt with a right shoulder problem for most of the season. Mike Rizzo and Dusty Baker vehemently denied the report and said the neck problem Harper dealt with in August was alleviated in the five days he rested it. They said Harper told them he was healthy, though he never publicly denied an issue.
Questions about his health lingered because Harper’s production dropped and never recovered. While his walk numbers did not drop and his strikeouts did not spike, his power numbers and average dropped precipitously from that 2015 MVP season with no easy explanation. He hit .210 for the final month of the season, often appearing on the brink of a breakout that never came.
His agent, Scott Boras, admitted that Harper was playing with “limitations” at times this season. When asked whether the Nationals were pushing Harper through an injury, Boras said “the only person pushing Bryce is Bryce.”
“It’s kind of like high school. When you’re a great player, your sophomore year is often your best year. Maybe your junior year. Not when you’re a senior, because they stop throwing to you,” Boras said. “You have to make that adjustment. The major leagues have made that adjustment, and he’s evolving to it. There’s a physical and a psychological component to that.”
Strasburg, meanwhile, was throwing off a mound by the time the Dodgers eliminated the Nationals in the National League Division Series. Baker had ruled the right-hander out for the NL Championship Series, but those around the organization remained optimistic that Strasburg might be able to build up enough stamina to return in the World Series if the Nationals got that far.
The 28-year-old, whom the Nationals signed to a seven-year extension worth $175 million in May, suffered a partial tear of his pronator tendon in early September. Before Game 1 of the NLDS, Strasburg said that tear had healed but he would not rush back and risk more severe trouble.
Given that Strasburg has had Tommy John surgery already, and that elbow trouble landed him on the disabled list even before the partial tear, he seemed a likely candidate for offseason repairs — though he and others did not expect him to need surgery. As of now, he is not scheduled for any, which means he should be ready for spring training