The Washington Nationals won last night and that brought their record up to .500. They are still seven games back of the Phillies, however, and four and a half back in the Wild Card race with a whole mess of teams in front of them. Are they a talented enough team to go on a tear and make the playoffs? Sure. Is that guaranteed? Oh, heck no.
Against that backdrop it was reported yesterday that, earlier this month, the Nationals told teams that, if they faded, they might become sellers. The idea being that, by telling other teams to scout them, deals could happen in a hurry if, at the last minute, they decide to throw in the towel on 2018. Ken Rosenthal hears that the Nats will decide by the end of the weekend whether to sell off, making their series against the Marlins a pretty critical one. The trade deadline, of course, is Tuesday afternoon.
What might a Nationals selloff look like? Jeff Passan of Yahoo suggests that relievers Ryan Madson, Kelvin Herrera, and Shawn Kelley could all be dealt, as they are all pending free agents. So too are Gio Gonzalez, Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams.
The biggest pending free agent on the team, however, is Bryce Harper. Rosenthal does not think that Harper will be dealt and, yes, it’s hard to see how the Nats could even pull that off. It’d be hard on the merits given that he’s making over $20 million this year and, frankly, is not having a good season. It’d also be hard politically, so to speak. While Nats fans understand he might walk in free agency this fall, they’re likely not prepared for the idea of the team dumping him. If they did, it would not be hard to imagine attendance and whatever residual fan enthusiasm existed given a selloff cratering. A trade of Harper would also presumably signal that the Nats had no intent to or no confidence in re-signing Harper to a long term deal, and it’s not at all clear that they have so resigned themselves. In light of that, a Harper trade seems far-fetched.
Then again, the notion that the Nats would be struggling to keep their heads above water while looking up at the Phillies in the Braves in the standing at the end of July seemed pretty far-fetched just a couple of months ago.