Nationals Vetoed Deal for Bryce Harper with Astros at Trade Deadline

By Michael Vesci
Nov. 12, 2018

Just when you thought the Bryce Harper situation could not take any more turns in its season-long saga. Late last week, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Washington Nationals turned down a trade deadline deal with the Houston Astros that would have sent Bryce Harper to Houston in exchange for three minor league prospects, including two top-20 prospects from the organization. The decision to decline the deal came at an interesting time for the Nationals who were still deciding whether they could contend for a playoff spot last season. Ultimately, the Nationals missed the playoffs and parted ways with some of their players prior to the MLB Waiver Trade Deadline.

Prior to the MLB Trade Deadline on July 31st, the Washington Nationals were 5.5 games back of the division-leading Atlanta Braves and five games back of a wild card spot which was becoming a crowded race in the National League. Instead of moving players at the July 31st deadline to potentially yield a nice return for their services and help build for the future, Washington and in particular general manager Mike Rizzo had their sights set on making the playoffs with a squad that had yielded mediocre results for the first four months of the season. Due to this belief, The team chose to make no moves at the deadline and move forward with the players it began the 2018 campaign with. Washington would finish eight games back of the Braves in the NL East, eight games back of the second wild card spot, and on the outside looking in at this year's playoffs.

Instead of moving players at the July 31st deadline to potentially yield a nice return for their services to help build for the future, the Nationals chose to move players ahead of the MLB Waiver Trade Deadline on August 31st once it became evident the team was unlikely to contend this season. In a flurry of moves, Washington traded embattled reliever Shawn Kelley to Oakland, first baseman Matt Adams to the Cardinals, second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Cubs, reliever Ryan Madson to the Dodgers, and starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez to the Brewers. It appears Bryce Harper was also claimed off revocable waivers and the Dodgers offered a trade deal involving outfielder Yasiel Puig but the two sides ultimately could not strike a deal which would have sent Harper to a Los Angeles team that ended up in the World Series for a second consecutive season.

The deal put in place by the Astros included right-hander J.B. Bukaukas, the No. 8 prospect in the organization, catcher Garrett Stubbs (No. 15 prospect), and another minor leaguer in exchange for Harper. For the Nationals, missing out on getting some future assets in exchange for a generational talent that could very well walk this offseason seems like a big mistake. While the team is hoping to hold on to Harper and have him sign a long-term deal, the outfielder turned down a 10-year, $300 million deal that the organization offered to him before the end of the season. As of Monday, he turned down the qualifying offer by Washington which was a one-year, $17.9 million deal. In turning down the qualifying offer, the Nationals will now receive a compensatory pick if Harper signs elsewhere for more than $50 million. Due to the Nationals exceeding the luxury tax threshold the pick will be after the fourth round of next year's MLB Draft.

Undoubtedly, Bryce Harper's market value will be extremely high this offseason, and he will be highly sought after by teams looking for that final piece of the puzzle on their quest for a World Series title. In possibly his final year with the Nats, Harper had a respectable .249 batting average with 34 home runs and 100 RBIs despite a midseason slump dragging his numbers down a bit. Wherever he ends up, he is going to demand an exorbitant amount of money for his services. If the 26-year-old was willing to turn down a $300 million contract from the team he came up through the system with, just imagine the contract he will sign in free agency. Stay tuned.

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