Today just got a little more exciting.
According to a source, the Nationals have let it be known that All-Star Bryce Harper is indeed available via trade, setting up what could be a wild race for the superstar with the 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline just hours away.
To be clear, this by no means indicates that the Nationals are committed to trading Harper today, though their willingness to listen to offers is a clear indication that general manager Mike Rizzo could become a major seller in the final hours leading up to the Deadline.
Other potential Nationals trade chips would potentially include Daniel Murphy, Giovany Gonzalez, Matt Adams, Mark Reynolds, Jeremy Hellickson, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson and Shawn Kelley, all of whom are poised to become free agents this offseason.
Harper is owed about $7 million for the remainder of this season, which could affect the ability of teams -- including the Dodgers and Yankees -- making a play for him as they try to stay beneath the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold.
Harper also is slated to become a free agent at the end of the season, and although the Nationals hope to bring the former National League MVP back to Washington, dealing the six-time All-Star for the final two months of 2018 would not preclude them from such a reunion.
Four executives all said that they believed Harper would remain in Washington for the rest of this season, though two said that if the offer was big enough, they could see the Nationals making a deal.
The Yankees were in a similar situation two summers ago with Albertin Chapman, who was traded to the Cubs before signing back with New York as a free agent just four months later. But Harper reportedly is seeking a deal worth more than $300 million and is the longtime face of the Nationals franchise, making his situation quite different than that of Chapman, who had been a Yankee for only a handful of months when he was dealt.
If Harper is traded, the team that acquires him will not be able to extend him a qualifying offer, which could help his leverage on the open market as that would mean the team that signs him will not have to forfeit any Draft picks in order to sign him. That would also put him on equal footing with Manny Machado, who recently was traded from the Orioles to the Dodgers and is the only other free agent who could rival Harper's potential contract this offseason.
The Nationals reportedly have been trying to acquire catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins, a potential deal that could change the club's plans. Should Washington figure out a way to deal for Realmuto, Rizzo could scrap any plans to sell and make a run at a postseason spot.
The Indians and Nationals have communicated recently regarding a possible Harper trade, sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi earlier on Monday, but the discussions hadn't gathered much momentum.
Even as the Nationals entered Monday with a six-game deficit in both the NL East and the NL Wild Card race, the price tag on Harper remains high, Morosi's sources said.
In any deal for Harper, the Nationals likely would ask for multiple pitchers to help rebuild a rotation that includes impending free agents Gonzalez and Hellickson. Cleveland has refused to include young right-hander Shane Bieber in a deal for a rental player, and it's difficult to imagine the Indians parting with right-hander Triston McKenzie, the club's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
Harper, 25, entered Monday tied for second in the NL with 25 home runs, but his .842 OPS is below his career average of .895. His most recent career highlight came earlier this month, when he won the T-Mobile Home Run Derby with a flashy performance in front of the home fans at Nationals Park.