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Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper helped keep Chris Davis from drawing interest from Nats

Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper helped keep Orioles star Chris Davis from signing with the Nationals.

In January, the Orioles signed first baseman Chris Davis to a seven-year, $161 million contract extension.

On Monday, the Washington Nationals and pitcher Stephen Strasburg agreed to a seven-year, $175 million deal.

Sometime between now and the 2018 offseason, slugger Bryce Harper probably will have his pick of $400 million-plus offers, the Nationals' among them.

Megadeals like Davis' tend to set the market for those to come. But in this case, Washington's payroll plans might have worked to keep Davis in Baltimore, or at least helped keep the price to $23 million per year.

According to an exhaustive Washington Post account of how Strasburg's deal got done, agent Scott Boras, who represents all three players, met with Nationals owner Ted Lerner at November's owners meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. He pitched Lerner on his available clients.

"Boras explained how Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis would fit into Washington’s lineup, hitting behind Harper," the Post's James Wagner and Adam Kilgore wrote. "Lerner countered by saying he did not want an exorbitant contract like Davis’s tying up long-term payroll that would hinder signing Strasburg or Harper, who is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2018 season."

It's unclear how seriously Boras stumped for a Nationals offer, or one from another team. The Orioles were the only suitor mentioned throughout their on-again, off-again negotiations, and in January, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that teams said Boras had been "pushing to create options" for his client, touting Davis' potential as a corner outfielder.

The Nationals' apparent disinterest in Davis is not especially noteworthy. Every organization, including the one in Baltimore, has assets that it must save for now so that they can be retained later.

But the Post story raises two two questions about baseball economics to consider. One's a silly hypothetical: Had Strasburg's contract been off the Nationals' books by the time Davis came to market, would Davis maybe be in Washington now, or just earning a bigger Orioles paycheck?

The other question is even more simple, and interesting. Lerner decided against an offer to Davis because of the Nationals' interest in holding on to Strasburg and Harper. Manny Machado can hit free agency after the 2018 season. As Peter Angelos builds the Re-sign Manny Fund, who will he have to pass on to have a fighting chance?

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