The Washington Nationals Should Trade Bryce Harper

Washington Nationals  v Milwaukee Brewers

The trade deadline is today so get ready for some wheelings and dealings as playoff contenders try to add that final piece to send them on their World Series run. I considered doing a blog about 10 guys who could get traded before 4:00 on July 31, but I decided I was way more interested in doing a blog about a guy who won’t get traded but should. That would be 2015 NL MVP and impending free agent Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.

So if you’ve been following the MLB season, you’ll probably know that Bryce Harper is not having his best season. Before the start of play on July 30, Harper was slashing .220/.369/.473 with 25 home runs and 62 RBI with a 1.6 WAR. Honestly, aside from the low batting average, his numbers aren’t that bad. He’s having the second-best walk rate of his career behind his MVP season in 2015, though his strikeout rate is also the second-highest of his career. Harper also has been having his worst season defensively, as his DRS is -10, which is the third worst amongst right fielders in all of baseball. He’s ahead of only Stephen Piscotty of the A’s and Nicholas Castellanos of the Tigers (the latter of whom is naturally a third baseman). But Harper is also arguably the most feared hitter in the game. Despite his struggles at the dish this season, you have to be mindful of Harper when he steps into the batter’s box. This is what he’s capable of:

And that was earlier this season. You’ve got to be a REALLY strong dude to hit a home run on a pitch that broke your bat. That ball traveled about 390 feet, too. Any guy who can do that is a threat every time he comes to the dish.

But I do feel like this low batting average is going to cost him a lot of money. There was a time where people thought that Harper was going to become the first player to earn a $400M contract in free agency. That’s probably not going to happen but Giancarlo Stanton got a $300M extension from the Marlins before his 59 home run season last year so I definitely believe somebody will be willing to give him $300M this offseason. But the question becomes whether the Nationals should cut ties now and get something in return or ride it out and hope they get hot enough to go on a World Series run.

The latter would be a mistake. Right now the Nationals are sitting at 52-53, third place in the NL East, 6 games behind the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies and 6 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the second Wild Card spot. Neither is an insurmountable deficit. However, they have the fifth worst record in the National League and have been trending in the wrong direction heading into this Deadline, as they’re 10-14 in the month of July. It would be a huge mistake for them to hang on to Harper because they think they can make a playoff run only for them to not reach the NLCS. Because let’s face it: the Nationals of the last few seasons were far better than this year’s bunch and not once did they reach the NLCS so I doubt hanging on to the current roster is going to fix anything. The haul a contending team would give up in order to secure Harper’s services would be astronomical, even if it’s only a rental. The Nationals do have a decent young core at the moment, which appears to be spearheaded by the 19 year-old Juan Soto and if they land the right prospects, that could result in a potentially shortened rebuild.

People are already aware that there’s now way in Hell Harper is remaining in DC as a free agent for a number of reasons. Number one, the Nationals won’t be able to afford him, a fact that was made pretty apparent when the team chose to extend Stephen Strasburg a couple years ago. On top of that, Max Scherzer is going to be on the books for the next decade or so (his contract is an interesting one that could put him in Bobby Bonilla territory). The next is that he’s a client of Scott Boras, who always has his players test the waters in free agency and rarely do they ever re-sign with their former club (Mike Moustakas last season was a rarity, though he did just get traded from the Royals to the Brewers).

But ultimately, the Nationals likely won’t trade Harper. There just simply haven’t been enough rumblings. Perhaps the Nationals have an impossible asking price for him? Perhaps they still think they can compete? Or perhaps they think they’ll alienate the fanbase by trading away their favorite player? Realistically, the Nationals are headed for dark days unless they get out in front of this rebuild, trade Harper for a bevy of top prospects, and give up on what is a lost season for the sake of the future of the franchise.

Should the Nationals trade Harper? Or should they take a chance on the rest of the 2018 season? Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Detroit Tigers

I’m sad to see that Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly’s cancer has returned once again. I can’t imagine what his family must be going through right now but if he can win 4 straight AFC championships, beating cancer again will be a breeze. On to happier news, we enter Day 11 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Detroit Tigers. Let’s get to it.

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2017 Results:

Record: 64-98, 38 games behind Cleveland Indians, 21 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Francisco Liriano, RP Travis Wood, CF Leonys Martin, IF Alexi Amarista, SP Mike Fiers

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Anibal Sanchez, 2B Ian Kinsler, OF Alex Presley, RP Bruce Rondon, OF Tyler Collins, IF Andrew Romine

Best Offensive Player: 1B Miguel Cabrera

Best Pitcher: Michael Fulmer

Depth Chart:

C-James McCann, John Hicks

1B-Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez (DH)

2B-Dixon Machado

3B-Jeimer Candelario

SS-Jose Iglesias, Alexi Amarista

LF-Mikie Mahtook

CF-Leonys Martin, JaCoby Jones

RF-Nicholas Castellanos, Victor Reyes

SP-Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Fiers, Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris, Francisco Liriano

Bullpen-Shane Greene (CP), Travis Wood, Alex Wilson, Zac Reininger, Joe Jimenez, Daniel Stumpf, Drew VerHagen

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Ron Gardenhire (1st season with Tigers)

Hitting Coach-Lloyd McClendon

Pitching Coach-Chris Bosio

1st Base Coach-Ramon Santiago

3rd Base Coach-Dave Clark

Bench Coach-Steve Liddle

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If ever there were a team in baseball that was in a rebuild, it’s the Tigers. They’ve practically gutted the team that started Opening Day for them. Gone are Justin Verlander, JD Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, and pretty much anybody else who made the Tigers one of the potentially more dangerous teams in baseball. However they were going nowhere fast so they decided now was as good a time as ever to commence with the rebuild, which got off to a pretty good start as far as rebuilds go as they managed to finish tied for the worst record in baseball at 64-98 and won the tie breaker over the Giants for the #1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.  It’s a pretty thin Major League roster for the 2018 season, as you can see from their projected lineup.

1. Leonys Martin-CF

2. Nicholas Castellanos-RF

3. Miguel Cabrera-1B

4. Victor Martinez-DH

5. Jeimer Candelario-3B

6. Mikie Mahtook-LF

7. James McCann-C

8. Dixon Machado-2B

9. Jose Iglesias-SS

The only guys really of note in this lineup are Cabrera and Martinez and they appear to be nearing the end of the line. Cabrera had his worst season in 2017, as he hit .249 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI and was worth -0.2 WAR. Granted, it may not have entirely been his fault, as according to a “study” I did, Cabrera was the unluckiest hitter in the game last season. So perhaps 2017 was a fluke for the future Hall of Famer. Victor Martinez also struggled last season as he battled injuries, as he hit .255 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 107 games for a -1.1 WAR. In fact it was the second time in 3 seasons the 39 year-old was worth a negative WAR. However they’re also the only two hitters in this lineup that can be deemed as dangerous even if they’re practically shells of their former selves at this point. Nicholas Castellanos is a guy that could be a positive for this lineup, as he had a breakout season in 2017. He hit .272 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI. He was only worth 1.8 WAR, however that could be due in fact to his poor defense in right field, which could be excusable given the fact he’s still learning the position. He came up as a third baseman and played there for the first couple years of his career. Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about in this Tigers lineup. It could also be a rough time at the plate for the foreseeable future as the Tigers don’t have a single hitter in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects.

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The Tigers REALLY struggled on the mound in 2017, finishing with the worst team ERA in the Majors (5.36). The only real bright spot amongst pitchers who finished the season with the team was Michael Fulmer, who is basically the default ace right now. Last season, Fulmer went 10-12 with a 3.83 ERA and was worth 3.5 WAR in 25 starts. His strikeout rate was pretty poor, as his 6.23 K/9 was 7th worst in baseball, however he showed good control, as his walk rate of 2.19 BB/9 was 11th best in baseball. He was also excellent about keeping balls in the yard, as his HR/9 rate of 0.71 was 2nd best in all of baseball (Washington’s Stephen Strasburg was best at 0.67). So despite the fact that he doesn’t miss a lot of bats, Fulmer does a good job of not giving hitters great pitches to hit. After him, though, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Jordan Zimmermann has been a disaster since signing with the Tigers after a successful career in Washington, last season being particularly bad as he had an ERA of 6.08. Had he thrown 2 more innings to qualify for the Major League minimum, that would’ve given him the worst ERA in baseball by half a run (Matt Moore’s 5.52 was the worst among qualifying pitchers). New additions from the Astros Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano could provide some value in the rotation, but Liriano barely appeared for Houston late in the season while Fiers got bumped out of the rotation by younger pitchers.

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The Tigers’ bullpen is pretty rough. The only guy who had a solid season last year was Shane Greene, who will be inheriting the closer’s role. He had an ERA of 2.66 last year however his FIP was 3.84, suggesting that his defense was helping out his overall numbers. He did manage to strike out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings and he was able to strand 84% of inherited runners. However he lacks experience in the closer’s role as he only has 11 career saves, though looking at the rest of Detroit’s options in the bullpen, he’s really the only legitimate candidate they have right now. Their only other quality relief pitchers, Travis Wood and Alex Wilson, have a combined 8 saves between them in their careers and neither was particularly good last season. Wilson had an ERA of 4.50 while Wood’s was a whopping 6.80. It’s not even a guarantee Wood makes the Tigers’ Opening Day roster. After that, it’s going to be a bunch of experimental guys. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see some of Detroit’s top pitching prospects such as Franklin Perez, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, and Beau Burrows appear in the Motor City at some point in 2018.

Overall, the Tigers are going to suck, but that’s kind of the point. The only exciting players on this team, Cabrera and Martinez, are 34 and 39 years old, respectively, and they may be past the points in their careers where they can be of serious value to the team. There are far too many question marks on the mound and I’ll be very surprised if the Tigers don’t end up in the cellar of the AL Central this season, perhaps even for all of Major League Baseball. However I do believe there is one team that will have a worse season than the Tigers, but they’re not due for another few days in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series.

Projected Record: 64-98, Last in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I transition from the worst team in the American League to the very best. We’ve got the defending champion Houston Astros on tap tomorrow as they look to try and defend their first ever World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Tigers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.