WHAT ABOUT BRYCE HARPER?

Photo courtesy of WikiMedia.

With all the talk of Baltimore trading Manny Machado ahead of his potentially historic foray into free agency, Bryce Harper has been in the background. Obviously it makes sense why he is, his team is in playoff contention and he’s basically the face of the team. That said it doesn’t change the fact that Washington are exactly at .500 with a 48-48 record. They’re 5.5 games out of first place in their division and 5 games out of a wild card spot. They may be in playoff contention but they certainly don’t look like a team that’s going to win the World Series, let alone that is even guaranteed to make the playoffs.

Harper has a 0.0 rWAR. 0.0. He is also currently batting .214/.365/.468. Granted, it comes with a .226 BABIP and a likely second half surge but the fact remains that Harper has been amazingly inconsistent in his career. His career batting line in fact is only .277/.384/.510 and his production according to rWAR: 1.1 in 2014, 10.0 in 2015, 1.5 in 2016, 4.7 in 2017 and 0.0 so far in 2018. In other words he’s not exactly an elite bat. Harper is very talented, but the Washington Nationals aren’t the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers and giving out a record-setting contract that Harper is expected to get is probably not in their best interests.

If the Washington Nationals were a better team, it would’ve made sense for them to simply hope for Harper to bounce back and deal with his contract status in the off-season, but they have a serious issue on their hands: do they risk missing the playoffs and then Harper for just a draft pick? Or do they risk missing the playoffs and then giving out a potentially disastrous contract?

The interesting part is that they already have a capable OF of Adam Eaton, Juan Soto and Michael A. Taylor. I’ll even go so far as to suggest that they can compete with it without Harper. Considering that they’re not even a lock for the playoffs at this point, is it worth it to risk losing Harper for a draft pick?

Let’s take a look at their options again:

A. Try to make the playoffs and lose Harper to free agency.

B. Try to make the playoffs and re-sign him in the offseason.

C. Trade Harper while still trying to make the playoffs.

Option A doesn’t seem very smart to me. Had they been playing better this season, then I would think that it would be the best option, but they’re a .500 team and this is just too risky and too likely to be disastrous. Option B might be even worse. Should they really be the ones to give him a massive contract?

Option C is the best option in my opinion. Despite his underwhelming season, Harper can still net them a good return. The Los Angeles Dodgers could use an OF and the possibility of pairing Machado with Harper might be too tempting to ignore; the Cleveland Indians need a RF; the Philadelphia Phillies need a RF as well (if Washington would be willing to do an in-division trade); the New York Yankees would be an interesting option too, if Harper would be willing to move to 1B. He’s open to the idea of moving to 1B already in fact.

The Washington Nationals may not even make the playoffs this season and what happens with Bryce Harper is a major decision for the team. The smart thing to do is to try and trade him so they could add pieces for a future run, as they already have an in-house replacement in Victor Robles.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments and on Twitter at @NeilfromNYC.

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16 comments

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  • Friarfanaticfan

    No, if they trade Harper, their season is over. Granted it’s probably over even if they don’t trade him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I see your point, but what if they got someone who can help this season?

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      • Friarfanaticfan

        “But what if they got someone who can help this season?”
        Oh, you mean like Bryce Harper?
        If they had any intention of making the playoffs this year, they wouldn’t dare to trade him. Nor would anyone else.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lol no I mean someone they need more than him. Harper is very replaceable this season unless his BABIP fuels a bounce back, he literally has the WAR of a replacement player. This isn’t 2015 Harper.

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      • Friarfanaticfan

        They don’t need anyone more than Harper and if they did they wouldn’t be able to get that person for 2 months of Harper. If they trade him their season is over and you know it. You don’t trade your face of the franchise in the middle of a playoff push.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Harper has -0.1 rWAR and they’re barely in contention. They also made the playoffs last year with an injured Harper, and in 2017 with Harper having a down year. I repeat -0.1 rWAR, they’ll be fine without him at this point.

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      • Friarfanaticfan

        .232 BABIP. You don’t seriously expect it to stay that low do you? It will go up and with it, so will his other offensive stats.
        “They also made the playoffs last year with an injured Harper, and in 2017 with Harper having a down year.”
        2017 WAS last year.
        They may be “fine” without him, but they don’t want to be “fine.” They want to win their first ever championship. And teams that want to win a championship don’t trade their face of the franchise. Ever.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Typo. I meant they made the playoffs the last 2 years with him either injured or ineffective. I do expect Harper‘s production to improve, but he can just as easily get injured as he seems to do annually. We both know they’re not winning it this year. Zimmerman is back to his pre-2017 form, Murphy might be done, Catcher is a hole, Eaton has injury issues, the rotation outside Scherzer is questionable…

        If they trade him now, they get something better than a draft pick, while still being able to contend. You’re right Harper can be very good, but they’re barely hanging on in the playoff picture anyway.

        Boston traded Nomar Garciaparra when he was their most popular player and face of the franchise in the middle of the 2004 season and won their first World Series in 86 years.

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      • Friarfanaticfan

        “We both know they’re not winning it this year.”
        “If they trade him now, they get something better than a draft pick, while still being able to contend.”
        You just contradicted yourself. Which one is it? Will they or won’t they contend this year?
        Anyway, we both know that the Red Sox with Nomar are the complete exception to the rule. The “trade our homegrown superstar but still try to contend” thing basically never works. We saw it with the A’s and Cespedes, the Pirates and Melancon, the Rangers and Darvish, etc. When the trade deadline comes, you need to pick a direction and stick to it.
        If the Nationals were leading their division (or even in possession of a Wild Card spot) the thought of trading Harper wouldn’t even be in theory. If you want to tell me their season is already over at this point, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree there but if they trade Harper, it’s definitely over.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t contradict myself. Contending for a playoff spot doesn’t mean that they have a chance to win or even make the World Series.

        Cespedes was batting .256/.303/.464 before Oakland traded him. I also don’t remember him being the face of the team. Texas trading Darvish definitely meant that they weren’t contending anymore so I agree with you that Texas claiming to contend after was ridiculous. Melancon was not the face of the team or a key player for Pittsburgh and they won that trade by a mile.

        I completely agree that Washington need to pick a direction and stick to it. You’re right if they led the division or were within 2-3 games while being well above .500 or had control of a Wild Card spot, I wouldn’t advocate trading Harper at all. The thing I disagree on is that they can’t make the playoffs if they trade Harper. Let’s say he gets injured and misses the rest of the season, if Murphy and Zimmermann suddenly bounce back, Strasburg stays healthy and efficient, and they go on a winning streak while getting a solid starter, they could make the playoffs. Wouldn’t you agree?

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      • Nats have made the playoffs in 4 of the last 6 seasons but have never won a title. They don’t care about just making the playoffs. They care about winning a championship. If they want to do that this year, they are going to need all the help they can get, regardless of whether that help is about to leave after this season. That includes Harper. By selling, even if they were to make the playoffs they’d be setting themselves up for another early exit. There is literally one team since 2000 that traded their homegrown superstar at the deadline and won a World Series. Not the type of odds you want to chase after.
        We saw what happened to the A’s’ offense after they traded Cespedes. We also saw what happened to the Mets’ offense the next year after they traded for him. He brings way more to a team than just whatever his slash line says. Mark Melancon was the NL’s best closer in 2016. You are correct that that trade worked out well for the Pirates but trading the NL’s top closer IS pulling the plug on the season.
        No, I don’t think the Nats can make the playoffs this year. But if they could, they wouldn’t even think about trading Harper. The goal is to hoist the commissioner’s trophy. Anything less would be considered a failure by them and their fans.

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