Remember back to the trade deadline when the Nationals were reportedly considering the possibility of trading Bryce Harper, then how GM Mike Rizzo came out and said that wasn’t really the case? Well, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Rizzo did in fact have a deal in place (subscription) to ship Harper to Houston at the end of July before Nats ownership put the kibosh on it.
The Astros had a trade in place for Harper on July 30, but the deal collapsed when Washington Nationals ownership refused to approve the move, according to major-league sources.
For Harper, the Nationals would have obtained right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, the Astros’ No. 8 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, and two other minor leaguers, sources said. Catcher Garrett Stubbs, the team’s No. 15 prospect, was in play, and the Nationals would have received another, low-level, minor-league pitcher as well.
Imagine how things could have changed in the AL, where the Astros still won 103 games and jumped out to a 1-0 lead against the Red Sox in the ALDS before dropping four straight. Adding Harper to the mix might have helped Dallas Keuchel to save a little face after his infamous “We’re not the Cubs” quip following the Astros’ 2017 title. Or maybe things would have worked out just the same.
The Nationals had a second opportunity to trade Harper last season, this time to the Dodgers, but they were unwilling to accept LA’s offer of Yasiel Puig. Now Washington’s compensation for the longtime face of their franchise will be a compensatory pick after the fourth round of the 2019 draft. That’s assuming Harper turns down the Nats’ qualifying offer on Monday and then goes on to sign with another team.
Though he’s already reportedly turned down an offer of something around $300 million over 10 years, it’s not inconceivable that Harper could return to Washington. Ownership’s refusal to allow him to be traded indicates that they’d prefer to have him around in the future. And the comp pick they’ll receive is little more than a lottery ticket, far less than they’d have gotten back from Houston.
Of course, another team coming anywhere near Scott Boras’s potential asking price of either 14 years or $35 million annually could make Washington look a little silly.