Good morning! It’s just about seven hours until the trade deadline, and Bryce Harper could be on the block.
The Washington Nationals, still undecided if they are buyers or sellers, have told other teams that their perennial all-star outfielder can be had via trade, if another team is willing to blow their socks off with an offer. MLB.com, citing a source, goes the furthest in reporting Harper as available, though even that report notes that it is by no means guaranteed that Harper will be traded. ESPN’s report is a little softer, saying only that the Nationals have gauged offers for Harper, to get a sense of what sort of return he could bring.
The Nats are apparently asking for the world, with Ken Rosenthal quoting a rival executive as saying Washington’s front office is looking to see if another team “wants to go crazy” with its offer. Tim Kurkjian says the Nationals would want “a front-line starter and more,” which sounds kind of unworkable, as any team with deep playoff hopes probably needs said starter more than it does an outfielder, especially one having the relatively disappointing season that Harper is.
Harper is hitting just .220, though he does have 25 home runs. He’s striking out more and walking less and getting absolutely killed by defensive shifts. He’s a free agent this winter, and the Nationals believe that they have as good a chance at signing him as any team, even if they trade him away now. But what if he goes to a team that wins a couple playoff rounds? What if everyone in that team’s clubhouse doesn’t hate each other and the manager? Perhaps it’s better business not to let Harper see for himself that the grass can indeed be greener.
The Nationals themselves are in a weird place right now. They’re 52-53, and according to Fangraphs they have a 42.9 percent chance of making the playoffs. That’s right on the cusp between buyer and seller, especially for a team that has so many parts that might fetch a decent price as rentals. The Nats have reportedly already fielded offers for a trio of bullpen arms, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, and Shawn Kelley, pending free agents all. If they really wanted to go nuts, Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Adams, Mark Reynolds, and Jeremy Hellickson will all be free agents too. A team truly devoted to a fire sale could restock its farm system pretty nicely with these trade chips.
But while all of this is being considered, the Nationals are still apparently in on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who would be the best bat available at the deadline if Harper wasn’t now in the mix (and who is having a better season at the plate than Harper anyway). But the Marlins are reportedly asking for “a king’s ransom” for Realmuto, and the Nationals are understandably hesitant.
Time is running out to make these decisions. Yes, deals can come together relatively quickly, but if the Nationals decide they’re not getting Realmuto, they only have until 4 p.m. to move a whole bunch of guys. Buyers or sellers? The worst thing might be to be caught in between, and do nothing.