Here’s the latest on the Nationals and Orioles, two local rivals who will be going in opposite directions at the trade deadline…
- Bryce Harper’s impending free agency is a major subplot to the Nationals’ season, though the team’s larger short-term concern is how to get Harper back in top form. As per ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, some rival executives speculate that Harper’s relative down year (he entered today hitting .212/.353/.465 slash line with 19 homers through 326 PA) could help his chances of returning to Washington in 2019, as the Nats are more familiar with Harper’s ups and downs than any other team. Harper and the team could explore the possibility of a shorter-term contract with an early opt-out clause, so Harper could re-enter the market as early as the 2019-20 offseason if he puts up better overall numbers next season. The opt-out clause has been a favored tool of Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, in the past, and it makes particular sense for a player who is hitting free agency at such a young age.
- Also from Olney, some teams will wait for the Orioles to approach them with solid offers for trades this summer. The strategy stems from last year’s failed talks for Zach Britton, with Olney writing “the Dodgers and the Astros were among the teams that felt as if they wasted a lot of time talking with the Orioles — because in their view, Baltimore struggles with the process.” The counter-argument from the O’s, was that they decided to keep Britton after thoroughly weighing the offers presented. Waiting for the O’s to make the first move in negotiations is a risk unto itself, as there continues to be uncertainty about how large the market will be for star infielders, namely Manny Machado. “I’m not convinced [the Orioles] will actually trade him because I don’t know how attractive the offers will be,” one rival executive said. Barring an injury on a contender’s roster, Baltimore may have to settle for a less-than-expected return for Machado rather than just see him walk in free agency at season’s end.
- There continues to be speculation about what big-picture changes may be coming to the Orioles, as John and Louis Angelos have been taking on an increased leadership role from their father, longtime owner Peter Angelos. Jon Heyman of FRSBaseball.com even hears from some Orioles-related sources that a sale of the team within the next few years wouldn’t be a total surprise, as the Angelos sons had been previously thought to be in line to take over the family’s law and TV businesses rather than the ball club. In regards to more immediate rumors, Heyman hears from a source that the Orioles’ interest in Ned Colletti for a front office position was “overblown,” rather than necessarily untrue. Heyman also reports that there was little-to-no truth to speculation that longtime Orioles names Billy Ripken, Mike Bordick, or Rick Dempsey could be stepping in as the next Baltimore manager.
- Since the Nationals have been unwilling to meet the Marlins’ demands for J.T. Realmuto, Ken Rosenthal (in a FOXSports.com video) suggests that Rays catcher Wilson Ramos is a “logical” next option as the Nats look to upgrade behind the plate. Ramos is enjoying a nice bounceback year after an injury-shortened 2017, and he is a known quantity in Washington from his previous stint with the Nationals. Ramos is still owed roughly half of his $10.5MM salary, though Tampa could ask for a smaller prospect return in exchange for the Nationals taking all of that remaining salary off the Rays’ books.