Washington Nationals shouldn’t trade Bryce Harper at MLB Trade Deadline

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 17: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals and the National League during the 89th MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard at Nationals Park on July 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 17: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals and the National League during the 89th MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard at Nationals Park on July 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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The Washington Nationals sit below .500 with just nine days until the MLB Trade Deadline. Even if they consider selling, they should not trade Bryce Harper.

It’s been an extremely rough six weeks for the Washington Nationals. They’re one game under .500 and could be virtually out of the race by the MLB Trade Deadline. However, even if they are, it would be unwise to trade their superstar, Bryce Harper.

The outfielder is having a strange season in 2018 as he’s hitting just .215 and tenth in the leagues in strikeouts. But he’s still a threat in the lineup with 24 home runs, 54 RBI and leading the NL in walks with 78.

Overall, Harper is around a league average player this season, but baseball fans everywhere were expecting MVP level performances. It’s even more disappointing in Harper’s contract year too, when he hoped to set the tone for a record-breaking deal.

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So with a team struggling to stay in the playoff hunt, and free agent to be, you would think that it would make sense to field calls for him. However, in this particular scenario, it’s probably best for the Nationals to hold onto Harper.

The most important reason for not trading Harper is the risk of potentially souring any relationship between him and the organization. With the chances of a contract extension between the two sides increasing the more both sides struggle, why would you want to hurt those chances?

The Nationals would still be able to survive without Harper in 2019 if he didn’t re-sign. They have Juan Soto, Adam Eaton, Victor Robles, and Michael Taylor contracted to potentially forming a fantastic outfield group.

However, we’ve seen Harper have five of seven seasons at an All-Star level, and two of those have been MVP caliber. Letting someone so talented, and someone who means so much to D.C. baseball just walk out the door isn’t easy.

Another argument against trading Bryce Harper is whether the return would really be worth dealing him. He would almost certainly receive a qualifying offer from the team, which he could, in theory, accept and try to bounce back next season. But if he doesn’t accept, the Nats would be due a draft pick for losing him.

As things stand, the Nationals would get a pick either after the second round or after the fourth round, depending on whether they exceed the luxury tax at the end of the season.

Here are some of the names the Nats have taken in the third and fourth rounds recently to gauge the value of that pick: Jesus Luzardo, Nick Pivetta, Danny Espinosa, Steven Souza, Derek Norris.

The exact return that a trade for Harper would get is difficult to project given his underperformance. But you would expect a lesser return than the Baltimore Orioles received for Manny Machado, who has been exceptional this year.

Machado was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday for a package headlined by MLB.com’s 84th ranked prospect, Yusniel Diaz. After him, the Dodgers included their 27th and 28th ranked prospects, and two more unranked prospects, according to MLB.com’s prospect rankings.

So it’s quite feasible that the Nationals would barely be able to get a top 100 prospect in return for a struggling Harper. At that point, the return wouldn’t exactly be a huge upgrade on what they would get in the draft.

So the question is whether that marginal upgrade is worth risking the relationship between the organization and Harper. And the answer should be no, assuming the front office still wants to sign him long-term.

Next: DoD Staff Mid-season Review

Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals have had such a unique relationship over the past seven seasons. It would be stunning if he was dealt at the Trade Deadline, but it certainly can’t be ruled out.