Nationals, Josh Harrison: A signing years in the making


When Josh Harrison became available in late July, the Nationals sprung into action. While the moment may have arrived suddenly, it was a long time in the making.

"We liked his skill set. Again, he's a contact guy – he doesn't strike out very often. He's got the ability to play about five different positions," Nats GM Mike Rizzo told The Sports Junkies in his weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance Wednesday, presented exclusively by Burke & Herbert Bank.

"He still runs pretty well and he's an energy bunny, man," he said. "We've been trying to acquire this guy for a long time."

It's true. The Nationals' name would often come up linked with Harrison in trade rumors in recent years, much in the same way as it did once upon a time with Denard Span, before ultimately acquiring the center fielder in a Nov. 2012 trade with the Twins.

The 33-year-old utility man, playing on a minor-league deal with little shot at making their big league roster, requested his release from the Phillies, which they granted. Six days later, Harrison signed a Major League contract with the Nationals and was immediately added to their 30-man active roster.

It's the story of what happened between those transactions that will draw you in, just as it did Harrison to Washington. Via The Associated Press:

"Harrison said that after he asked for his release from the Phillies, he was immediately in touch with teams other than the Nationals — and was close to agreeing to a deal with one of those clubs."But about 20 minutes from the end of the 600-mile drive from Philadelphia to his home in Cincinnati with his wife and children, Harrison recounted, his agent called to say: 'Change of plans. Washington wants you. Big leagues. Let's do it right now.'"So that's what Harrison did."

"I just like the way he carries himself. I like the way he interacts with his teammates," Rizzo said. "When he always played against us, I always loved the player because he plays so extremely hard but he has such a joy when he's playing."

"It was somebody that we had wanted to acquire for years," he said. "And then when the time came and he was available, you know, we do our due diligence, so we call the people who have been with him and that type of thing. And Philly had really good things to say about him. It was a numbers thing for Philly, that's why he didn't make that club."

Harrison isn't quite the everyday player he used to be, which he came to be known for in eight seasons as Pittsburgh's second baseman, but he brings the versatility to the lineup of someone who can play five positions (second base, third, shortstop, and left and right field).

While he's not a power hitter (54 career home runs), that doesn't mean he can't hit it out, as he proved to Steven Matz Tuesday night, taking the lefty deep to left to lead off the second inning, in his second game with the Nationals.

"I figured that he's another good veteran presence that gives Davey some options and flexibility in the lineup, can really hit left-handed pitching and, I think, a guy that would really be an asset to us in the clubhouse," Rizzo said. "I called his agents, who I'd known for a long time, and then we called Josh and he was all-in, so we brought him right to the big leagues."

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