Nationals sluggers Bryce Harper and Matt Adams were claimed by unidentified organizations on revocable trade waivers, according to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post (Twitter link). They join fellow left-handed hitting Nats veteran Daniel Murphy as pending free agents who were not able to make it through the waiver wire.
The fact that teams were awarded claims on these players does not, of course, mean that any or all will actually change uniforms. There are always complicated strategies at play when waiver claims are made in August, and relatively few actually result in transactions.
Nevertheless, the claims do establish a timeline and process for determining whether or not these particular players will be dealt. Harper reportedly hit the wire on Friday, at the same time as Murphy and several other (then-unnamed) Nats players. It’s certainly possible, then, that these three situations will be resolved early this afternoon. Any players placed on waivers on Friday would be due for a decision today.
With regard to each player, the Nats can either work out a trade, revoke the claim, or allow the player to go to the claiming team for no compensation. As the D.C. organization continues to stare at a yawning gap in the NL East race, it clearly faces some difficult decisions.
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It is difficult to imagine that the Nationals will simply allow another organization to take over Harper’s contract. After all, the homegrown superstar is a sure bet to receive and reject a qualifying offer this fall, putting the Nats in line to recoup draft compensation if they can’t re-sign him.
That said, salary considerations and the desire to restock the farm certainly cannot be dismissed as motivating factors. Harper is owed nearly $5MM between now and the end of the season. If the Nationals decide that hopes of clawing back into the NL East race are too remote to warrant further expenditure, then perhaps the team will be willing to engage in real negotiations with whatever organization claimed Harper.
Adams certainly seems likelier to move among the two players. He has devastated right-handed pitching, with a .264/.345/.538 slash and 17 home runs in 238 plate appearances taken with the platoon advantage. His $4MM salary is an easy one to stash in most budgets. And at this time of year, it’s not that concerning that Adams isn’t a terribly flexible defensive player. Organizations in need of the bench pop could surely juggle things for a few days before rosters expand on September 1st. And Adams looks to be quite an interesting postseason asset.
Notably, the timing does leave the Nationals with at least a bit of leverage and remaining wiggle room — particularly, with respect to Murphy and Adams. The club could still hold out for some kind of return, pulling the veterans back if nothing is forthcoming. Then, if the situation in the standings still seems desperate later this month, the Washington organization could place all or some of the players back on waivers — knowing, this time, that they’d lose them for nothing more than salary relief if a claim is placed.
The most interesting factor here, of course, is not yet known: which teams won the claims? The Nationals could be negotiating with any number of different clubs on these three players. Truly, it’s difficult even to guess with any degree of confidence. National League rivals had priority, in reverse order of winning percentage. All three players are plausible targets for a variety of contenders. Particularly with regard to a premium performer such as Harper, it’s even possible that a non-contender could have inserted itself into the process.
It’s also worth noting that, per Castillo, several other Nationals veterans were recently placed on revocable waivers. The list is said to include at least three additional pending free agents: starter Gio Gonzalez, right-handed-hitting slugger Mark Reynolds, and catcher Matt Wieters. Whether or not they cleared waivers has yet to be reported.