Assuming baseball teams have overpaid for older free agents in the past and soon-to-be stars are not worth what their agents tell them they are worth, what is a club to do? Let’s take the Washington Nationals, owners of Bryce Harper, one of those 2019 free agents, as an example.

A few weeks ago some thought owners might offer Harper a $500 million deal for his next contract. The Nats have three quality outfielders on the roster and a pair of top 100 prospects in waiting, not counting Harper. The Lerner family, owners of the Nats, are not likely to spend that kind of money on any player.

Redskins' misplay

Another Washington team, the Redskins, are coming off a three-year saga with quarterback Kirk Cousins. He was drafted the same year Robert Griffin was. Cousins sat and learned while RG III was given the starting job. Griffin had a great rookie season as defenses couldn’t adjust to his free-wheeling style. Then came a knee injury. In seasons two and three coaches attempted to set up the quarterback in the pocket, but he couldn’t adjust. Cousins performed well for an injured Griffin for a long stretch of 2014 and was named the starter in 2015.

Cousins was superb, but the team wasn’t. He will leave via Free Agency in March, and the club will probably receive a third-round draft pick from the league as compensation.

The 2017 Redskins had poor receivers, bad running and no defense. Wouldn’t it have been smart to trade Cousins?

Cousins isworth a lot more than … what figures to be a third-round selection,” Washington sports analyst Al Galdi said on his "Chin Music" show. "Chin Music" is the only hour devoted to Washington, Baltimore, and all things MLB in the Washington market.

There has been a lot of chum in the water about Harper going to a bigger market or more historical franchise a la the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, or Philadelphia.

The future is now

“Not to get too philosophical, but a big part of sports and life is learning from mistakes [either your own or others’ mistakes],” Galdi added. “One of the many lessons from Kirk Cousins is that the Redskins should have been more proactive and traded him.”

So if Harper doesn’t want to stay in Washington, or the team isn’t willing to spend what it believes Harper will demand next year, why not trade him now for the best compensation it can find?

Is Harper worth a record $350 million to the Nats? General Manager Mike Rizzo is also in his contract year. Rizzo should make his best offer and either sign or trade Harper now.

Baltimore’s conundrum

Baltimore is in a similar situation with Manny Machado. Machado only hit .259 in ’17, but his power numbers were closer to average with 33 dingers and 95 RBI's. The infielder’s WAR was down to 3.5—the lowest it has been in three years—but still second on the Orioles. During his MLB career, spanning parts of six seasons, Machado has racked up 27.9 WAR and .805 OPS. Machado is scheduled to make $16 million in 2018. He and the club cannot agree to a long-term commitment, and the Orioles need prospects. Why not make a deal?