“It would have to be something spectacular,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies last week, when asked if he’d actually consider trading 2010 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper, adding that it would take, “a [spectacular] set of circumstances for us to do that.”
”But like I said before,” Rizzo added, “... we’re going to do what we have to do to better this team for 2018 and beyond. Harp’s one of the superstars of the game and he’s a guy that is near and dear to my heart personally, and in Washington, D.C., and one of the great players in the game.”
Asked in general about trading potential free agents, like Harper, and if it would mean, in effect, that they were conceding they wouldn’t sign on to stay in Washington, Rizzo told the Junkies he didn’t agree necessarily agree with that thinking.
“If it improves your club for the now and for the future, you certainly have to consider it,” he explained, “and I rarely take into account about the free agent leaving, that you have less of a chance of re-signing him if you wanted him.
“To me, it was shown, like the [Aroldis] Chapman situation with the Yankees – they traded him away and then re-signed him the next year. Those things can happen all the time with free agents.
”I think the free agent question is, if you’re not in a long-term plan, which means you’re going to be a free agent at the end of the season, then you improve the club for ‘18 and beyond and lengthen your farm system and deepen your chances to make a run down the road.
“I think you have to consider all aspects and we certainly will. We have in the past. We’ve been buyers at the deadline, we’ve been sellers at the deadline, and we’ve been a mixture of buying and selling at the deadline, and I don’t see that changing moving forward this year.”
After a Philadelphia Phillies’ loss (their fourth straight) and an Atlanta Braves’ win last night, the Nationals are 5.5 games out of first in the NL East with 57 games to play. Davey Martinez told reporters on Sunday that no one in Washington is giving up on the fight for the NL East division crown.
”Not by any means are we giving up, “Martinez said. “We’re not done yet, I know they’re not up there, I know Rizzo is not that guy, I know the front office ain’t those people, so we’ve just go to keep pushing, and we’ve got to do it there, and regardless of what happens after this deadline, we’ve got to play baseball consistently every day.”
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal argued on Monday night that trading Harper wouldn’t mean a white flag was being waved in Washington, but it might actually make the Nationals better.
“The current version of the Nationals is not working,” Rosenthal wrote, noting that they’re a game under .500, though just 5.5 games out of first, and adding that, “... after opening the season with a club-record $180.8 million payroll, [it] would be foolish to concede.”
The Nats would be better off trading him, Rosenthal said, “securing pieces that might help them both now and in the future,” and would be “... better off being proactive than getting sucked into Scott Boras’ free-agent web this winter,” when Harper and his agent are likely expecting something in the 10-year/$300-$400 range according to the speculation in the last few years.
Rosenthal’s plan?: Trade Harper for pitching that can join the rotation now, promote Victor Robles to play the outfield with Juan Soto, Adam Eaton, and Michael A. Taylor, and acquire J.T. Realmuto (or another catcher).
The less splashy, less world-changing rumors out there with the non-waiver deadline at 4:00 PM EDT this afternoon, have the Nationals shopping some of their soon-to-be-free agent arms, like Kelvin Herrera, Shawn Kelley, and Ryan Madson:
Per sources, #Nationals taking offers for potential FA relievers - Herrera, Kelley, Madson. Want top prospect for Herrera when they gave up less for an extra month of control. “Feels like ownership asking them to sell and (front office) not wanting to,” one rival exec said.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 30, 2018
Are there “culture” issues in the clubhouse? Is Martinez in over his head? Has Harper really become a divisive presence in the nation’s capital as some recent reports suggest? Do the Nationals, as Rizzo suggested they would, improve the team any way they can, or stand pat if the right deal isn’t there, and see if either the Phillies or Braves (both relatively young, and untested teams) crack down the stretch?
We’ll know some of the answers by 4:00 PM ET this afternoon when this year’s non-waiver deadline arrives...