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Nationals reportedly vetoed Astros trade offer for Bryce Harper in July

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While there’s been no recent clarity on where free agent superstar Bryce Harper might be headed next spring, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros came very close to completing a trade for the slugger at the non-waiver deadline in July.

According to Rosenthal’s column (subscription required), Houston had offered their eighth-best prospect, right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, and two minor-league players in exchange for Harper’s services. Although the terms of the trade were worked out by July 30, Nationals’ ownership ultimately nixed the deal in the hopes that the team would close the 5.5-game gap at the top of the division and make another postseason run, hopes that were subsequently dashed by the Braves’ late-season surge to their 18th division title.

Following the club’s second-place finish in the NL East, Harper declined the Nationals’ proposed 10-year, $300 million extension. He’s all but guaranteed to decline their one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer as well, given the record-breaking contract he’s in line to receive on the open market. Should he latch onto another team, as expected, the Nats will receive a compensatory pick following the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft next June.

Even given the 26-year-old’s struggles in 2018, it’s hard not to imagine the impact his .249/.393/.496 batting line, 34 home runs, and 3.5 fWAR could have had on the defending World Champions’ playoff run, especially as they came so close to securing another berth in the Fall Classic last month. There’s still a possibility the Astros could circle back to Harper over the winter, though they’re currently projected to head into the 2019 season with George Springer, Josh Reddick, Tony Kemp, and Jake Marisnick, among a few others.

Donaldson ejected for kicking dirt on plate after home run

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Minnesota’s Josh Donaldson managed to get ejected while hitting a home run.

Donaldson barked at plate umpire Dan Bellino for the second time in the sixth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

With the score 2-2, Bellino called a strike when the 2015 AL MVP checked his swing on a 2-0 pitch from Reynaldo Lopez.

Manager Rocco Baldelli came out to speak with Bellino, and Donaldson homered down the left-field line on the next offering. After rounding the bases, Donaldson kicked dirt at home plate as he crossed it.

Bellino ejected him immediately, and Donaldson, realizing he had missed home plate, returned to the plate to touch it and then argued as he kicked more dirt on it.

Donaldson also had argued with Bellino on a 1-1 breaking ball in the first inning that appeared to be high but was called a strike, leading to a strikeout.

“We need Josh on the field, out there playing, and at third base,” Baldelli said. “That’s when we’re at our best. And so that’s really the end of it. I think we can move past it at his point, and go from here.”