The Washington Nationals are on the verge of falling out of contention in the National League East as they sit six games behind the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies. With the trade deadline coming up at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday afternoon, not only could the Nationals see the end of their season, but there is a slim possibility that they could see the end of star right fielder Bryce Harper in the nation's capital.
Harper is entering unrestricted free agency this winter after seven inconsistent and ultimately disappointing seasons with the Nationals despite winning an MVP Award in 2015 and making six All-Star Game appearances. Yet his Nationals, who entered numerous seasons as favorites to win the pennant, were unable to attain any sort of real postseason success.
The 25-year-old, in the meantime, has had some great seasons, but one still can't predict what could be expected of him. After batting .319 with 29 home runs and 87 RBI last year, Harper is batting a measly .220 to go with improved power numbers of 25 home runs and 62 RBI.
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As frustration mounts in Washington D.C., so do talks about the Nationals possibly trading Harper if the notion is that he will not re-sign with the team this winter.
Harper, who will be the class of the free-agent class along with Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado, is expected to receive the richest contract in Major League Baseball history this winter, surpassing the astronomical 13-year, $325 million deal New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton received from the Miami Marlins prior to the 2015 season.
If the Nationals feel that they can't re-sign him, they might have to scramble to trade him before Jul. 31. However, even the thought of Harper's availability for a contending team should warrant some impressive returns, even if it nothing more than a rental for the final three months of the season.
Could the New York Yankees trade for Bryce Harper?
The thought of the New York Yankees even possibly pursuing Bryce Harper would draw the ire of any baseball fan that does not have an affinity for pinstripes. But any sort of big-name trade target or free agent will always be connected to the organization.
But Aaron Judge is out for three weeks with a wrist injury and the Yankees could possibly be keen on picking up a power bat to help the club try and stay close to the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
There are plenty of factors working against the prospect of Harper joining New York, though. The Nationals would likely ask for a number of New York's prime prospects, whether that be pitcher Justus Sheffield or outfielder Estevan Florial.
As seen in the Yankees' pursuit of Manny Machado, who was dealt from the Baltimore Orioles to the Dodgers earlier this month, it is clear that they were hesitant to include top prospects for the possibility of nothing more than a rental.
Now dealing with the hypotheticals: Say if the Yankees trade for Harper and he wishes to re-sign, it would saddle the organization with another enormous contract after taking a chunk of Stanton's deal off the Marlins' books. So much for staying under any sort of luxury tax threshold.
While Judge and Stanton already split time in right field, it shouldn't be that difficult to find Harper a place to play. Brett Gardner is likely playing in his final season with the Yankees, which would allow Harper to slot in at left field, a position he's played 194 games at during his career.
Harper could feast off the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, but time constraints and negotiations would obviously work against any sort of idea that New York could acquire Harper in the next day.