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Trade rumors surrounding Bryce Harper gained steam on the eve of Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline, but the Washington Nationals made it clear his immediate future was in the nation’s capital.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made it clear Tuesday morning that the team did not plan on trading its star outfielder, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post: “Bryce is not going anywhere. I believe in this team.”
Those comments shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that Rizzo recently told 106.7 The Fan (h/t The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal) that Harper is “near and dear to my heart personally.”
A Nationals official also recently told Rosenthal that the team would not improve by trading the face of the franchise.
“I’m glad to still be in this clubhouse,” Harper told reporters after the deadline, adding that Rizzo personally assured him he wasn’t being moved.
Rumors have popped up as the team is in the midst of a disappointing season. After winning 95-plus games and making the playoffs in each of the past two campaigns, the team sits at 52-53 and in third place in the National League East. It is 5.5 games back both in the division and in the wild-card race.
There was speculation that the Nationals’ series against the Miami Marlins this past weekend was going to determine whether they would be buyers or sellers at the deadline. After splitting the four-game series, their status remained unclear.
Until Tuesday, that is.
Harper has long been expected to command one of the largest contracts in baseball history when he hits free agency this winter. However, like his team, he has struggled in 2018. He is hitting just .220, although he still has 25 home runs and 62 RBI.
Of course, his top moment of the season came when he put on a show for the hometown crowd at the 2018 Home Run Derby:
That may have given him a boost heading into the second half, as he has hit .286 with two home runs, one double and eight RBI in nine games since the All-Star break.
Trading Harper wouldn’t necessarily preclude Washington from re-signing the 2015 NL MVP this offseason. It’s hard to see, though, how it would help its cause, other than the fact that it could bring back players who could help it win in the future.
Teams may have been intrigued by the possibility of acquiring Harper at the deadline, but it appears as though the league will have to wait until the winter to make a run at the six-time All-Star.