While Tuesday was highlighted by a whirlwind of noteworthy deals leading right up to 4 p.m. ET, the 2018 non-waiver Trade Deadline will also be remembered for the big name that stayed put: the Nationals' Bryce Harper.However, the superstar outfielder may have been closer to being moved than many realize.
While Tuesday was highlighted by a whirlwind of noteworthy deals leading right up to 4 p.m. ET, the 2018 non-waiver Trade Deadline will also be remembered for the big name that stayed put: the Nationals' Bryce Harper.
However, the superstar outfielder may have been closer to being moved than many realize. The destination? Cleveland.
• Trade Deadline recap: Every team's moves
According to Jayson Stark, multiple sources told The Athletic (subscription required) that the Indians were "in deep conversations" with Washington about Harper "before the Nationals pulled back the FOR SALE sign."
If Cleveland had been willing to include young right-hander Shane Bieber -- the Tribe balked at that request, per MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, who initially wrote about the club's interest in Harper on Monday -- the outcome might have been different.
On Wednesday morning, Bieber, who has recorded a 4.73 ERA (3.40 FIP) over 51 1/3 innings with the Indians as a rookie this season, commented on Cleveland's reported refusal to put him in a deal for Harper.
"There wasn't much reaction, just because there were no legs to it," Bieber told MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. "It's a pretty cool thing to see. It's always nice to have commitment from the club. The Indians have been nothing but great to me. They're great to everybody in the organization, through and through, from when you first get drafted until when you're with them for however many years. All the guys have nothing but high regards for the organization. It's definitely nice to hear, but there wasn't much to it."
The Nationals are in the midst of a disappointing season, but the chances of them trading Harper -- one of their many veterans on expiring contracts -- seemed almost nonexistent up until Monday night, when MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported that Washington was making it known to other teams that the slugger was available.
As Tuesday dawned, the baseball world was abuzz about the chances of a Harper blockbuster, but that enthusiasm was quickly dispelled by general manager Mike Rizzo's declaration that Harper wasn't going anywhere.
Per Feinsand, a source with knowledge of the situation said that Cleveland was one of several teams to contact the Nats about Harper. The Indians ultimately acquired Leonys Martin from the Tigers to shore up an outfield that has been a notable weak spot this season.
The Nats could always revisit a Harper trade in August, but the Indians are unlikely to have another opportunity to deal for him. In order for that to happen, Harper would need to go unclaimed on waivers by the other 14 National League teams and then every AL team with a worse record than Cleveland's, per MLB's waiver rules.
Harper, 25, has hit just .226 in 2018, but he ranks among the NL leaders in homers (25, tied for third) and walks (85, first) and has produced an .855 OPS. He's earning $21.65 million this season, his final year before free agency.
Thomas Harrigan is an editor for MLB.com.