Bryce Harper is a free agent, and the Internet Police have required us to mention him at least once a day all offseason. Sorry, it's out of my hands; I'm just trying to stay out of jail.
Today's entry, however, is a fun look back. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros actually had a deal in place to land Harper for the rest of 2018 back in July, but Nationals ownership vetoed the deal.
Drink that one up for a second and consider all the implications.
First off, the Astros lineup would have gotten a huge boost. Tony Kemp had a fine year, but he's not in Harper's league, and the DH spot wasn't very productive with the year Evan Gattis had. Let's just look at the lineup the Astros started in Game 1 of the postseason compared to what it would've looked like with Harper.
|Without Harper||With Harper|
|1||George Springer, CF||George Springer, CF|
|2||Jose Altuve, 2B||Jose Altuve, 2B|
|3||Alex Bregman, 3B||Alex Bregman, 3B|
|4||Yuli Gurriel, 1B||Bryce Harper, DH|
|5||Marwin Gonzalez, LF||Marwin Gonzalez, LF|
|6||Carlos Correa, SS||Carlos Correa, SS|
|7||Tyler White, DH||Yuli Gurriel, 1B|
|8||Josh Reddick, RF||Josh Reddick, RF|
|9||Martin Maldonado, C||Martin Maldonado, C|
It's only one player, but that just looks significantly more scary, right? Maybe with Harper in the lineup Altuve doesn't hurt his knee. You never know. It's the butterfly effect. Everything changes. Maybe the Astros repeat as champs (though the Red Sox were historically great).
Also, I feel like there's something here regarding Harper's free agency. We've mostly been hearing about the big guns (Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs) being out on Harper. We know the Nationals, Phillies and White Sox want him. What if the Astros decide to jump in? We know they wanted to deal for him. Signing him long-term is much different than trading for a half season, but it's at least worth a quick thought.
Further, Rosenthal reports that the Nationals in this deal would have gotten right-handed pitcher J.B. Bukauskas, possibly catcher Garrett Stubbs and another pitching prospect in return. Bukauskas was ranked as the 76th-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to last season. He pitched to a 2.14 ERA in 59 innings with 71 strikeouts at a whopping five different stops last season (the highest level being Double-A). Stubbs hit .310/.382/.455 in Triple-A. Any draft compensation the Nationals get if Harper signs elsewhere pales in comparison to this package they would've gotten.
Of course, keeping that butterfly effect in mind, what if the Nationals would have diminished their chances of keeping Harper by trading him? Sometimes comfort level is incredibly important to players, and D.C. is the only big-league home Harper has ever known. If he plays a few successful months in Houston, now maybe it's not so daunting to sign elsewhere.
As things stand, it seems there will be a simple, accepted-as-truth statement once Harper signs. If it's with the Nats, I think we can say it was smart of ownership to nix the deal. If he doesn't, ownership meddling cost them at least two very good prospects.