After hard-fought first halves of the season, the NL West and Central are now led by the teams everyone expected to see at the top before the season started: Dodgers and Cubs. But the same cannot be said for the NL East.
After surprising, perhaps, a year early, both the first-place Phillies *and* (half-game-back) Braves have stolen the hopes and dreams of Nationals’ fans everywhere, who know Bryce Harper is in a walk year.
- It wasn’t always this way, though. The Nationals were in first place as recently as June 11th and have spent 16 days at the top of the division this season. In fact, just a week after losing their spot at the top of the division, the Nationals went out and added one of the top available relievers on the market, Kelvin Herrera, from the Royals. It felt like an aggressively early move at the time (given that it was still just June), but I think most of us felt that the Nationals would eventually wind up in first anyway, so adding early and kickstarting that process could be wise.
- But here we are on July 24th – one week from the trade deadline – and the Nationals aren’t just in third place, they’re a game below .500 and 6.0 games out of first and 5.5 back of the second Wild Card (behind five teams). Which means – shockingly – selling is beginning to become a reasonable question …
#Nats have a losing record, but they're not making Bryce Harper available via trade. GM Mike Rizzo told me, "We will do what's necessary to win this year and beyond in any deals we make." Full story: https://t.co/ZhkwwIuBcO @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 24, 2018
- According to Morosi, the Nationals aren’t quite ready to concede the division, and could instead still look to add someone at the deadline. But as Ken Rosenthal points out, that’s easier said than done. To summarize Rosenthal, the most obvious place for the Nationals to add is catcher, but they’re not interested in parting with the necessary pieces in a J.T. Realmuto deal, and the other, more reasonable option, Wilson Ramos, is expected to be out with a hamstring injury until after the deadline. Adding him would be a risk. Meanwhile, the rental starter options are not considered upgrades over Tanner Roark or Gio Gonzalez, and the longer term options – Chris Archer, for example – would likely require one of their top young outfielders, Juan Soto or Victor Robles, who are the heirs-apparent to Bryce Harper when he leaves for
the Cubsfree agency this winter. In other words, they’re in a very tricky spot.
- Outfielder Bryce Harper, infielder Daniel Murphy, starter Gio Gonzalez, and relievers Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson are all going to be free agents this winter, and each could bring back a nice return. If the next six games don’t go well for the Nationals and I was a fan of that organization, I’d start to wonder if selling HARD on each of those guys might not be the best decision. And if the Nats were willing to sacrifice some upside in these deals in exchange for some immediate impact, the turnaround for 2019 could be quick. I really, really, really doubt this will happen, but, again, if I were a Nats fan … I’d be thinking about it.
- And, hey …
Lineup change: Bryce Harper now not in Nats lineup. Taylor will hit sixth and play center.
— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) July 24, 2018
- FYI it’s apparently a “stomach bug” keeping him out of the lineup. Which, yeah, sure. *winky face*
- Moving on, Craig Mish reported that several teams, including the Phillies, Rockies, Indians, and Cubs, were scouting the Marlins last night. And although teams scout other teams all the time – and for all sorts of benign reasons – it’s worth pointing out that the Cubs don’t play the Marlins again this season. Marlins’ young right-hander Jose Urena started that game, but I sincerely doubt they’d move him, so it would likely have been more about the relievers than anything. The Marlins are reportedly open to moving some talented, controllable relievers like Drew Steckenrider, for one, but the asking price is reportedly very high.
- Speaking of sky-high asking prices, the Mets apparently asked for one of the players on the Cubs 25-man roster in exchange for closer Jeurys Familia, which, uhm no …
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 24, 2018
- And, apparently, the same goes for Britton. Which, again, no. Not even close. Separately, 670 the Score reports that Chris Archer, Danny Duffy, Dylan Bundy, and Zach Britton are all potential trade targets for the Cubs. We already knew about Bundy and Britton, and Archer is forever a Cubs target, so no surprise there, but Danny Duffy’s name is new this trade season, at least. Duffy was a Cubs target in the past, but we haven’t heard much on that front in a while. For what it’s worth, Duffy, 29, is still young and under contract for a while, but he took a big step backwards this season (4.40 ERA, 4.90 FIP).
- This is surprising, but according to Mark Feinsand, the San Francisco Giants plan on being buyers at the deadline. Well, “strategic buyers” is the exact phrase, but the broader point remains … really? The Giants are one game over .500, but are 5.5 games out of first and in fourth place of the NL West – with three very strong teams ahead of them. Why would they be buyers? I know they have a very old roster and, theoretically, this was supposed to be a competitive season for them, but it’s not. I can understand not wanting to sell, I guess, but buying? This season? Mistake.
- Also according to Feinsand, multiple teams have expressed serious interest in Chris Archer, but there’s no urgency to move him (what else is new?). But perhaps the more important piece of the story is the report that the Rays might actually hold onto right-hander, free-agent-to-be, and Chicago Cubs target Nathan Eovaldi, potentially deciding instead to give him a qualifying offer after the season. To that I say … yeah, sure. OK. In all likelihood, the Rays are not getting the sort of value they hoped to see in proposed offers and this is a leverage grab. For one, the Rays will almost certainly get a better prospect for him now than they would if he declined the qualifying offer, but for another, there’s NO WAY they’re risking paying him upwards of $18M for one season – because what if he accepted it (he probably would)? All of which is to say, that’s good news for the Cubs, because Eovaldi is a great target for this team and might not cost that much.
- Nothing much on the specifics here, but this is obviously a pretty telling tweet for a number of obvious reasons (market movement, Brewers involvement, etc.):
#Brewers GM David Stearns on trade market: "There are going to be a lot of players traded over next week. We’re going to be active on a number of them. I’m optimistic we’re going to pull something off but you never really know until you’re able to actually consummate the trade."
— Tom (@Haudricourt) July 24, 2018
- And finally, after rolling the dice on Matt Harvey earlier this season, the Reds are apparently trying to move him now in what’s being called their “deadline priority.” Harvey had been putting together a nice(ish) rebound with the Reds, but he did just allow eight earned runs in 3.2 IP two days ago. I don’t think any serious contender will rely on him as their big pickup, but he could be a depth flyer. Not sure how well he’d fare in Chicago, in case you were wondering.