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: Chicago White Sox

There isn’t really a whole lot of news to talk about today so I’m going to spare you with the rambling intro I usually do at the start of these things. Today we’re going to take a look at the Chicago White Sox, whom I don’t expect much out of considering they’re all in on their rebuild. So without further ado, we’re in Day 7 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Chicago White Sox.

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2017 Results:

Record: 67-95, 35 games behind Cleveland Indians, 18 games behind Minnesota Twins for second Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Hector Santiago, RP Bruce Rondon, RP Joakim Soria, SP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo, RP Luis Avilan

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Derek Holland, RP Jake Petricka, 2B Alen Hanson, RP Al Albuquerque, LF Cody Asche, SP Mike Pelfrey, RP Zach Putnam, C Geovany Soto

Best Offensive Player: 1B Jose Abreu

Best Pitcher: James Shields

Depth Chart:

C-Welington Castillo, Kevan Smith

1B-Jose Abreu

2B-Yoan Moncada

3B-Matt Davidson, Tyler Saladino (DH)

SS-Tim Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez

LF-Nicky Delmonico

CF-Adam Engel, Leury Garcia

RF-Avisail Garcia

SP-James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon, Miguel Gonzalez, Carson Fulmer, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago

Bullpen-Joakim Soria (CP), Nate Jones, Juan Minaya, Danny Farquhar, Luis Avilan,  Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, Bruce Rondon

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Rick Renteria (2nd Season with White Sox)

Hitting Coach-Todd Steverson

Pitching Coach-Don Cooper

1st Base Coach-Daryl Boston

3rd Base Coach-Nick Capra

Bench Coach-Joe McEwing

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The White Sox may have arguably the thinnest Major League roster in the American League at the moment. Aside from Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia, there isn’t really anybody on the team that will keep opposing managers up at night and even in Garcia’s case, we’re not sure if his big 2017 season was a fluke or not. Here’s how the White Sox are projected to look in 2018.

1. Tim Anderson-SS

2. Yoan Moncada-2B

3. Jose Abreu-1B

4. Avisail Garcia-RF

5. Welington Castillo-C

6. Matt Davidson-3B

7. Nicky Delmonico-LF

8. Tyler Saladino-DH

9. Adam Engel-CF

The only guy in that lineup who really instills fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers is Abreu. Last season he was particularly dangerous as he hit .304 with 33 home runs, 102 RBI, 95 runs scored, slugged .552, and was worth 4.1 WAR. He’s driven in at least 100 runs in all 4 of his Major League seasons and is an imposing threat in the batter’s box at 6’3 255 pounds. Avisail Garcia had a breakout season in 2017, as he hit .330 with 18 home runs, 80 RBI, slugged .506, and was worth 4.2 WAR. However those numbers could be a bit fluky. Garcia hit .392 on balls in play which suggests that he got lucky at times because a number that high is unsustainable. Plus he had a very low walk rate of 5.9% suggesting that he may not see the plate as well as others or simply lacks the patience. Plus it was his first season where he was worth more than 1 WAR, as he had actually had a negative WAR in each of his first 3 seasons. Perhaps he has turned a corner, but I suspect Garcia may be in for a hefty decline in 2018. But the main story surrounding this White Sox team, like the Braves, is their extremely loaded prospect pool. Arguably the best member of that pool, Yoan Moncada, whom the White Sox acquired from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade, is expected to open as the everyday second baseman and Chicago is expecting big things out of him. He’s been compared to Robinson Cano and that’s quite a tall order for a guy who is a career .229 hitter in 62 games at the Major League level. There isn’t a whole lot of Major League experience with Moncada, however what we have seen is a second baseman with a good amount of pop, good speed, and a good stick when he manages to put the ball in play. Moncada had a .325 average on balls in play last season however he only hit .231 and a big reason for that is he struck out 32% of the time he came up to bat, which would have ranked 4th in the Majors had he had enough at bats to qualify. He struck out at an even higher rate than Aaron Judge and Mark Reynolds, who have gained reputations for being big power bats that strike out a lot. He NEEDS to bring that number way down if he hopes to maximize on his potential. A guy he might want to take a look at is Javy Baez of the Cubs, who came up in a similar fashion. He boasted tremendous power for a middle infielder but he struck out at an alarming rate. In his first taste of the Majors in 2014, Baez struck out 41% of the time. However since then, he has brought that number down every season until 2017 and his production has been better for it. He got his strikeout rate as low as 24% (which still isn’t great but it’s at least respectable) in 2016 and in that season, he hit .273 with 14 homers and 59 RBI en route to helping the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years. So if Moncada can follow the improvements made by the other Chicago second baseman, he would become a huge asset for the White Sox.

<> at Comerica Park on September 14, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

White Sox pitching is currently an absolute shit show right now. Their ace, James Shields, hasn’t been a quality pitcher since 2014 and hasn’t had an ERA under 5 since 2015. In 21 starts last season, Shields went 5-7 with a 5.23 ERA, a 5.83 FIP, 103 strikeouts, and was worth -0.2 WAR. That’s not even #5 starter numbers and this guy is the favorite to be the Opening Day starter. There was a time when Shields was an ace, his time with the Rays was very good, but those days are long gone and Shields is basically a batting practice pitcher at this point. In fact, had he pitched enough innings to qualify, Shields’ 2.08 Home Runs per 9 innings allowed would’ve topped all of baseball. Lucas Giolito is a guy the White Sox hope can reach his potential as well. Like Moncada, Giolito was at one point the #1 prospect in baseball on another team whom the White Sox acquired in a trade for one of their best players (OF Adam Eaton). He struggled mightily with the Nationals but his first stint with the White Sox showed a lot of promise. He only made 7 starts but in those starts he went 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA (though his FIP was 4.94, the largest differential I’ve ever seen). He didn’t strike out a ton of batters, as his Strikeouts per 9 was just 6.75, but he was helped by the fact that opponents only hit .189 on balls in play against him. If he can continue to show the promise he showed in his brief stint with the White Sox, they may have their future ace on their hands. Carson Fulmer’s another guy they hope will take the next step into ace status. As of right now, I am a bit ashamed to admit, but in the 2015 MLB Draft, I was upset the Red Sox took Andrew Benintendi with the 7th overall pick when Fulmer was still on the board, whom the White Sox snatched up with the very next pick. While Benintendi is a future stud for the Red Sox, Fulmer has yet to leave his mark with the White Sox. In his first stint in 2016, he made 8 relief appearances and pitched to an 8.49 ERA. His second stint in 2017 was much better (can’t do much worse) where he pitched to a 3.86 ERA in 7 appearances and 5 starts. His control has been a big problem in both stints, as he walks over 5 batters per 9 innings. There are a lot of issues currently in the White Sox pitching staff but if their young guys can step up, then things will go a lot more smoothly.

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The White Sox bullpen is one of the weaker units in the American League. Joakim Soria is slated to be their closer and along with Nate Jones, he’s probably the only one who is even remotely capable of holding the job. Last year in Kansas City, Soria pitched to a 3.70 ERA (though he had a FIP of 2.23) and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings so he still has something left in the tank despite being 33 years old. Nate Jones is also a capable reliever, as he pitched to a 2.31 ERA last season and struck out over 11 batters per 9 innings. Should Soria struggle in the closer’s role, manager Rick Renteria ought to be more than confident in his next best option in Jones. After those two guys there really isn’t much to write home about.

Overall, I don’t expect the White Sox to sniff .500 at any point this season. Aside from Jose Abreu there aren’t any established Major League studs. The excitement for them, though, is in their prospect pool, which is arguably the best in baseball. To go along with young Major Leaguers Moncada, Giolito, and Fulmer, the White Sox have waiting in the wings guys like OF Eloy Jimenez (acquired in the Jose Quintana trade), OF Blake Rutherford (acquired in the Todd Frazier trade), P Michael Kopech (acquired in the Chris Sale trade), OF Luis Robert, P Alec Hansen, P Dylan Cease, and P Dane Dunning, all of whom rank amongst MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. So the future is bright in the south side of Chicago, but the present leaves much to be desired.

Projected Record: 70-92, 4th in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Cincinnati Reds, who will try and escape the cellar of the NL Central for the first time since 2014. Let me know what you think of the White Sox’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.