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.