With back-to-back losses to the Marlins this weekend, there's some thought the Nationals should sell prior to the trade deadline. General manager Mike Rizzo was said to be on the fence about selling prior to the four-game split in Miami. The big question is whether they'll consider trading franchise icon and outgoing free agent Bryce Harper. Recent indications are that they may indeed be moving in that direction ...
According to a source, the Nationals are making it known to other teams that Bryce Harper is indeed available.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 31, 2018
As for some specifics, the Nats and Indians have had at least cursory trade discussions involving Harper ...
Yes, Morosi indicates there's no momentum toward a deal. That said, there's still plenty of hours left until Tuesday afternoon's deadline, and it's possible that the Indians and Nats have discussed a general framework.
The Indians are focused on adding an outfielder -- specifically a center fielder -- prior to the trade deadline, reports ESPN's Buster Olney. Olney opines Cleveland may be better off adding an infielder and shifting Kipnis to center field, where he played late last season and in the postseason.
At the moment the Indians are using a Greg Allen/Rajai Davis platoon in center field with Melky Cabrera and Brandon Guyer sharing time in right. All-Star Michael Brantley is entrenched in left and both Tyler Naquin (hip), Lonnie Chisenhall (calf), and Bradley Zimmer (shoulder) are injured. The Indians can go in a number of different directions before the deadline, though it is clear they need an upgrade in center.
While Harper isn't a natural in center he has put in more than 1,000 career defensive innings at the position. Yes, Harper's batting just .220 in his age-25 season, but his high walk and home run totals lift his OPS+ to 122. Needless to say, he's also got the skills to find his customary level at any moment. Given the low bar at the position, Harper would be a big upgrade for Cleveland even if he isn't a standout defender in center and even if he continues producing at the current level. The question for the Indians is whether they could put together a persuasive package after dipping into the farm system quite often for major trades in recent years -- including the Brad Hand deal with the Padres earlier this month.
As for Rizzo and the Nationals,, though if they want to re-sign him, the best way to do that is to keep him at the deadline. Even if the club trades Harper with the intention of re-signing him after the season, the odds of re-signing him go down as soon as he's traded. Any sense of loyalty is eliminated and Harper gets a taste of life in another organization.
Whatever the case, it appears that trading Bryce Harper is no longer an unthinkable proposition for the Nationals.