A Bryce Harper trade is still astoundingly unlikely, but now the Philadelphia Phillies have entered the arena.
Crazy things tend to happen at the trade deadline, however, nothing as crazy as a superstar in his prime getting dealt. That’s the reality we’re kind of facing down with word that Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper is on the trade block.
This is significant for a number of long-term reasons, but since the deadline is about to pass we’re viewing this information through a very short-term lens.
I want to preface this with extreme caution because this is the internet and far too many people take what they read as gospel. The idea of trading Bryce Harper is utter poppycock but it’s exciting enough to at least consider. Washington is offering Harper as a means to bait a team into giving them what would have to be a Godfather offer drenched in overpayment. It would take a mammoth deal to get Harper moved, but simply cracking that door open — even if a brick wall is on the other side — is at least intriguing.
That being said, Philadelphia actually makes a ton of sense as a Harper trade destination.
Heyman passed along word that executives think Philly could go all-in to get him. That’s not to say it’s going to happen but there are stars to be aligned. For starters, the Phillies are expected to be a top pursuer of Harper in free agency, meaning getting him now would allow for a test drive phase of their potential future relationship. It’s basically the Paul George Effect, where you trade for a free agent target in hopes of wooing him enough that he re-signs. Los Angeles is currently doing this with Manny Machado, which could take them out of the Harper market and give Philly an improved chance of signing Harper anyway.
Philadelphia also has the trade assets to get this done. A deal was getting lined up that could have landed Machado from Baltimore, but ultimately that deal fell through. It wasn’t because it was a bad deal, rather the Phillies just backed off when the Dodgers and Yankees started to go harder. The chips that could have landed Machado are still there for the Phillies to go after Harper, ones that fall in line with Washington’s desire to acquire top young talent that can blossom in the very near future and set up a foundation for winning.
Lest we forget that the Phillies are in a position to give Harper something he hasn’t had with the Nationals: A serious shot at a World Series. There is a massive incentive for the Phillies to get this deal done so that Harper’s half-season with the team involves a hot pursuit of a World Series. The National League is wide open at the moment, and there are few better bonding experiences to sell Harper on signing with you than getting into the trenches together.
Of course, this is all assuming a deal even gets done. Washington is only a handful of games out of first place, and everything that has been stated as being reasons Philly should trade for Harper are reasons Washington should keep him. There’s no reason for the Nationals to waive the white flag on the idea of Harper re-signing in Washington.
But if there were a team that could actually pull this off and shock the baseball world, it might be Philly.