Nationals president of baseball operations and GM Mike Rizzo has issued a strong statement about his intentions amid speculation that the club has considered trading star Bryce Harper. As Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports on Twitter, Rizzo says: “Bryce is not going anywhere. I believe in this team.”
It’s hardly surprising to see the Nationals land on this stance. After all, for all its struggles this year, the club remains within reasonable striking distance in both the NL East and the Wild Card races. While the club has several high-end players, moreover, Harper remains the most visible member of the organization.
On the other hand, the 25-year-old Harper is heading to free agency at season’s end. If the Nats aren’t going anywhere, they’d surely love to recoup some value for Harper, who’s also still playing on a hefty $21,625,000 salary this year. A qualifying offer seems sure to bring back some draft compensation, unless Harper elects to return to D.C., but that surely won’t be as useful as the potential prospect return in a trade.
To be sure, though, Harper’s value as a rental asset isn’t as great as his name recognition. He has not looked himself for much of the season, with mortal (but still good) offensive numbers and putrid grades for his glovework in the outfield. His salary is a factor, too. Surely, the potential return for Harper weighed into the Nationals’ decisionmaking, though it’s unclear whether that was the major driving force.
While this news seems to take away any realistic possibility of a surprising deal coming together today on Harper, it doesn’t necessarily strip the Nationals of trade deadline intrigue. Notably, however, the Nationals organization is sending signals that it will not move its high-priced relief arms, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). But the organization employs several other expensive pending free agents as well, including one veteran starter who just popped up in a rumor.
Of course, there’s also still at least some potential for the club to consider repositioning or even buy-side moves, particularly if it would mean adding a controllable player who’d make an impact now and in the future. If the team ends up moving a starter, in fact it could conceivably do so in order to facilitate the addition of a different arm. As things stand, there still seem to be loads of possibilities.