He was hardly the only one, there was a lot of chatter out there and a number of people did genuinely seem to think that Bryce Harper might actually get traded before the non-waiver trade deadline, but Buster Olney put himself out there on ESPN on Tuesday morning, and he put the family farm in his home state of Vermont on the line.
“If I had to bet the family farm, back in Vermont, one way or the other, I think by the end of the day, he’s on another team,” Olney said.
At some point on Monday, when the rumor mill reached peak churn, with reports Harper was available, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo reached out to Washington’s 25-year-old outfielder.
“I only got in touch with him when some information came out that we were in the midst of looking to trade Bryce Harper and I thought that time was probably a good idea to say that was false information and he wasn’t going to be traded. That was later last night,” Rizzo said after the deadline passed on Tuesday afternoon.
Hours earlier, Rizzo sent a text to the Washington Post, which Nationals beat writer Chelsea Janes shared:
Mike Rizzo just reached out with this message:— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) July 31, 2018
"Bryce is not going anywhere. I believe in this team."
Harper heard the rumors, but he knew before the rest of the baseball world did that he was not getting traded.
“Rizzo reassured me earlier yesterday that I wasn’t going anywhere, so I was very happy about that and glad I’m still inside this clubhouse,” Harper told reporters.
“I’m very happy to write Bryce’s name in the lineup still,” Davey Martinez said when he met with the press before the first of two with the New York Mets on Tuesday night.
“And looking forward to writing his name every day.”
To be clear though, the Nationals do appear to have at least listened to offers for the 2010 No. 1 overall pick, who’s set to become a free agent this winter (at just 26 years old).
“We had several discussions with teams about a whole litany of our players. Bryce was one of them,” Rizzo acknowledged.
“Several teams had more than passing interest. We did our due diligence on Bryce and five or six other of our players, and couldn’t come up with a deal that made sense for us for the 2018 season and beyond. So we didn’t make a deal until really late this afternoon when the Cubs came to us with a deal that made sense and we reacted by trading [Brandon] Kintzler.”
“I think whenever you hear your name or see your name on stuff,” Harper said, “you always wonder, but I think that’s the business side of the game, it’s part of the game.
“Other teams are trying to get better, and it’s just something that came up.”
How close did Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office actually come to trading Harper?
Did the Nats seriously consider any offers?
“I think you go back to the comments I made, what was it, a week or so ago,” Rizzo said.
“It had to be a spectacular set of circumstances for us to move a player of Bryce Harper’s ability level, and we didn’t get any [offers] that met those qualifications.”
Should they have traded Harper? At this point, if he doesn’t sign, the Nationals, who will surely make a qualifying offer before free agency that Harper will surely decline, will get only a draft pick (4th Round-ish) if the current face of the franchise signs elsewhere.
What did the fact that the Nationals didn’t deal Harper, or anyone other than Kintzler at the deadline tell the team?
“I think that just goes to show how good our management is, and how good people upstairs are and how much faith they have in this team and this clubhouse,” Harper said.
“And I think coming in every single day we’re trying to win and we’re trying to do the things we can to win on a daily basis, and it shows from higher up and all the way down to us.
“They’ve got a lot of faith in us and that goes a long way.” Or as Rizzo put it: “I believe in this team.”