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Friday, July 27, 2018

The Nationals must think about the unthinkable: Trading Bryce Harper

So, then, for the first time in seven summers, we face the serious question: With the nonwaiver trade deadline coming up Tuesday, should the Nationals sell?

You can’t ask that inevitable question before the next one roars up like a freight train: Should they try to trade — gulp — Bryce Harper?

I don’t know what the fascination is with this idea. There was an article in Sports Illustrated, Dave Fleming wrote about it on Bill James’s web site, and now Barry Svrluga writes an article for the Washington Post. I get the logic; the Nats are nearly out of it, they’ve had a lot of injuries, and Harper is probably gone after this season anyway. But the return just isn’t going to be worth the trouble. Who is going to pay a lot in prospects for two month of an erratic player who plays at an MVP level at his best, but is currently playing like an average player? One could hope that he breaks out of his funk, but if he does that with the Nats, they could be right in the hunt for the NL East title. I think one of Atlanta or Philadelphia will fade, maybe both. They are seven back, but the Yankees in 1978 gained six games in 11 days. That’s pretty unlikely, but trading Harper would be saying that they are giving up.

Hank Gillette Posted: July 27, 2018 at 01:14 PM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bryce harper, dreams, trades

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   1. Rally Posted: July 27, 2018 at 04:19 PM (#5717038)
Nats have (or had when I looked the other day) about the same run differential as the Phillies. Fangraphs' projections think Atlanta and Philly are both a bit lucky and the Nats the opposite of that. They have both teams projected at slightly under .500 for the rest of the year. Given their head start, that still puts Philly up, but pretty close by projected final standings:

PHI 87-75
WAS 85-77
ATL 84-78

If you believe in the team's talent that's close enough that you have give it your best shot to come back. Nats have a better shot at getting to the playoffs than the typical team that is 7 back at the end of July, because it's hard to look at the team they have and not think they have the most talent in the division.

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that in addition to their established MLBers, Juan Soto would go from having less than 100 AB in a full season league to the second coming of Mel Ott, I would have assumed they'd be up by 20 games right now.
   2. The Yankee Clapper Posted: July 27, 2018 at 04:28 PM (#5717043)
But the return just isn’t going to be worth the trouble. Who is going to pay a lot in prospects for two month of an erratic player who plays at an MVP level at his best, but is currently playing like an average player?

The Nationals are still in the race, and want to re-sign Harper in the offseason. It just doesn't make sense to trade him and take a lot of flak from the fan base. Seems highly unlikely.
   3. TomH Posted: July 27, 2018 at 04:32 PM (#5717045)
And they could also win the WC too. Yeah, not time to blow stuff up.
   4. Kiko Sakata Posted: July 27, 2018 at 04:47 PM (#5717058)
Who is going to pay a lot in prospects for two month of an erratic player who plays at an MVP level at his best, but is currently playing like an average player?


I think the sort of team where a guy like Harper could make a lot of sense would be a team that's on the very fringe of contention, where their only real hope of making the playoffs is to make an implausibly good run in the last couple of months. In that case, a guy like Harper has the potential to help with one of those, but the downside case is really no worse off than before - team that was on the cusp of maybe being in playoff contention misses the playoff. Without thinking about where he'd fit in terms of where they'd play him, maybe somebody like the Cardinals or Giants, who are both 4.5 games out of the second wildcard spot (and both behind four other teams in that race).

Now, that said, what should a team like that be willing to give up for Bryce Harper? Very little, I would think. And, of course, it's also worth noting that the Cardinals and Giants are actually in a three-way tie for 5th place in the race for the second NL wild-card with ... the Washington Nationals.
   5. Sunday silence Posted: July 27, 2018 at 05:02 PM (#5717061)
FG still has them at 35% to win the division despite being 7 games back. And I dont think anyone has overcome that much deficit in Aug in the last 20 years??? cant recall.

FG seems to be heavily weighted towards pythag projections, seems very suspect. They have them at better odds to win a wC than PIT despite being a game behind. Well OK they're team is better than PIT surely, but then they have them at 5% to win the WS and PIT at 0.4%... Really weird.

No one seems to take GM Rizzo into these suggestions he doesnt seem the type to make a drastic move like this, and Harpers stock is down at the moment, so "no."
   6. Rally Posted: July 27, 2018 at 05:15 PM (#5717067)
FG still has them at 35% to win the division despite being 7 games back. And I dont think anyone has overcome that much deficit in Aug in the last 20 years??? cant recall.


It’s over. It’s always been over.
   7. Davo and his Moose Tacos Posted: July 27, 2018 at 05:19 PM (#5717070)
Duarte] Multiple sources have told me that the #Dodgers⁠ ⁠ have checked in on availability of Bryce Harper. #Nats are still undecided on if they want to sell, but if they do, LA is a likely destination.
   8. bfan Posted: July 27, 2018 at 05:23 PM (#5717071)
Duarte] Multiple sources have told me that the #Dodgers⁠ ⁠ have checked in on availability of Bryce Harper.


Do the dodgers ever run out of prospects another team would be interested in?
   9. Walt Davis Posted: July 27, 2018 at 05:40 PM (#5717080)
FG still has them at 35% to win the division despite being 7 games back. And I dont think anyone has overcome that much deficit in Aug in the last 20 years??? cant recall.

Not necessarily the right way to look at it. Lots of teams that were 7+ games back at this point were chasing very good teams that weren't going to let them back into the race. Perhaps more relevantly, teams go on hot streaks all the time and the fact that those teams weren't 7+ games back or got super hot in May not August doesn't mean they aren't relevant to the Nats' chances. The Pirates just won 13 of 14; the A's are 32-15 over June-July. The Cubs were just 4 games over 500 in mid-May and have gone 37-23 since (see also 2015 Cubs). The Dodgers were still 8.5 games out in mid-May and they've gone 41-20 to lead by 1.5.

So sure, the chances aren't very good that the Nats will go 35-25 or better over their last 60 games but that's about the performance we expected out of them at season's start. Even if that happens, the chances aren't very good that neither the Braves nor Phils will reach 87. But the Phils and the Braves are pretty mediocre teams and the Nats shouldn't be, so we should expect the race to tighten. And, as noted, they're just 4.5 back of the 2nd WC.

As to Harper ... if you get a really good offer, then sure. If the Nats will pick up some money, the A's make a nice landing spot.
   10. The Duke Posted: July 27, 2018 at 08:42 PM (#5717196)
I could see both the Cards and Giants doing this. A chance to get him to either of these cities and get a step up on the off-season lottery might be worth it and Harper has a huge incentive to turn in a massive back half.

Can’t see the senators letting him go
   11. Sunday silence Posted: July 27, 2018 at 09:18 PM (#5717205)
Walt. I cant disagree with your comments. My issue is more with the idea of using pythagorean projections in general. Is there any evidence of their predictive powers?
   12. Dog on the sidewalk Posted: July 27, 2018 at 09:27 PM (#5717208)
Pythagorean record has no weight in their projections, SS.

https://www.fangraphs.com/standings/playoff-odds/about
   13. Sunday silence Posted: July 27, 2018 at 09:58 PM (#5717216)
that link raises more questions than it asks; but thanks for the information!
   14. Nasty Nate Posted: July 27, 2018 at 11:10 PM (#5717247)
But the return just isn’t going to be worth the trouble. Who is going to pay a lot in prospects for two month of an erratic player who plays at an MVP level at his best, but is currently playing like an average player?
What's "the trouble?" If he's not that great, then what's the big problem with losing a not that great player?
   15. T.J. Posted: July 28, 2018 at 12:48 PM (#5717339)
an’t see the senators letting him go
Walter Johnson, Sam Rice, Harmon Killebrew, and Frank Howard disagree.
   16. Bourbon Samurai, what price fettucine? Posted: July 28, 2018 at 04:34 PM (#5717448)
What's "the trouble?" If he's not that great, then what's the big problem with losing a not that great player?


He's immensely popular in DC, by far the most important player in the history of the Nationals. You don't trade him unless you can get something worth the PR hit.

I'd be inclined to sell, personally, they will have Soto, Scherzer, Rendon, Turner, Strasburg, Eaton and Robles to build on next season regardless, but they've really struggled with depth this year. Years and years of deadline trades are rough on a farm system.
   17. TomH Posted: July 28, 2018 at 05:41 PM (#5717482)
#5: how soon we forget the 2011 season? Rays were 9 behind the wild card with only 24 to play, on Sep 3rd.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: July 28, 2018 at 07:20 PM (#5717504)
FWIW, there have been analyses of at how much weight to give to pythag record in terms of projecting future performance that season. Obviously it goes down as the season wears on (and even more obviously, keep not winning and eventually you reach the point where you have to out-play your pythag to have a chance to close the gap).

But pythag ain't the argument here. Their pythag is only 544 meaning only 32 pythag-only projected wins over the last 59 games leaving them at 84. By pythag, they only pick up a half-game on the Phils and lose ground to the Braves (with a 560 pythag).

This is about projections/talent, whether you use an official saber method or your own noggin. The argument is not just that the Nats are under-performing their pythag by 4 games, it's that their pythag is under-performing their talent level while the Braves and Phils are over-performing their talent levels. One statistical question would be what the appropriate weights should be for actual record, pythag record and ZiPS-based projected record (or whatever) in projecting the next 59 games. Assuming one has updated projections to include this season's performance, one can argue that the pythag is essentially already incorporated into the projection and is unnecessary.

So if you believed the Nats were about a 600 team coming into the season and you thought the Phils and Braves might struggle to reach 500, at what point do you change your mind enough to no longer expect the Nats to play close to 600 and those guys to play close to (say) 450? Something like 34-25 (about a 93-win pace) puts the Nats at 86 wins. At 450 from here, the Phils would finish with 84-85 wins and the Braves with 82. Obviously the chances of all three of those things happening is pretty small but it's hardly drawing to an inside straight.

You'd want to do stuff like look at the actual schedule, adjust for trades and injuries, check your playing time assumptions, etc. in making those forward projections.
   19. spycake Posted: July 28, 2018 at 08:56 PM (#5717519)
FG still has them at 35% to win the division despite being 7 games back. And I dont think anyone has overcome that much deficit in Aug in the last 20 years??? cant recall.


2009 Twins were 7 games back as late as September 6th, came back to force and win a game 163 tiebreaker.
   20. McCoy Posted: July 28, 2018 at 09:30 PM (#5717535)
The Giants were 4 back with 7 to play and were behind two teams for the WC spot in 1998. Couldn't win game 162 which meant instead of taking the WC spot they had to play the Cubs for it and lost.

The Cleveland Indians were 9.5 games back of the White Sox with 26 games to play in 2005. They cut the lead to 1.5 games before going 1-6 the rest of the way and falling back. Even with 3 games left in the season they still had a chance to chase down the White Sox but ended up getting swept by the Sox to end the season. I was so hoping for the Indians to chase them down.

The next year you had the Cardinals up by 7 with 12 to play. Houston gets red hot and takes a 4 game series from the Cardinals and they were actually 7.5 games behind the Cardinals. They manage to get to within a .5 game of the Cardinals but lose two of three to the Braves at the end which meant that the Cardinals don't have to make up a missing game and the rest is history.
   21. Kiko Sakata Posted: July 28, 2018 at 09:57 PM (#5717556)
Obviously the chances of all three of those things [Nationals getting hot; Phillies and Braves slumping] happening is pretty small but it's hardly drawing to an inside straight.


Not to suggest the Nationals are still favorites to win their division but these events aren't independent either. It looks like the Nationals still have 7 games left against the Braves (who they trail by 5 in the loss column) and 9 against the Phillies (who they trail by 6 in the loss column). So, technically, the Nationals still control their own destiny. Again, not to suggest they're likely to go 16-0 against these two teams (although 14-2 would do fine), but the opportunity still exists for them to win the division without relying on other teams to start beating the Phillies and Braves.
   22. Sunday silence Posted: July 29, 2018 at 12:57 AM (#5717585)
I guess if the Nats have no interest in resigning Harper they maybe should trade him. At this pt. its really hard to say what he would get on the open market. We were talking about 10 yrs/300M earlier in the season but now? Im not so sure i'd bet on him returning to previous form.
   23. Lassus Posted: July 29, 2018 at 08:27 AM (#5717606)
2009 Twins were 7 games back as late as September 6th, came back to force and win a game 163 tiebreaker.

The Mets laugh at this example.
   24. Nasty Nate Posted: July 29, 2018 at 09:51 AM (#5717615)
What's "the trouble?" If he's not that great, then what's the big problem with losing a not that great player?



He's immensely popular in DC, by far the most important player in the history of the Nationals. You don't trade him unless you can get something worth the PR hit.
OK, but if they are losing him in 2 months anyway, wouldn't it be only taking the PR hit sooner? Or if instead they will be signing him back as a FA, won't the PR hit be temporary and insignificant? (For the sake of these questions, I am ignoring the PR hit associated with waving the white flag)
   25. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: July 29, 2018 at 10:07 AM (#5717619)
(For the sake of these questions, I am ignoring the PR hit associated with waving the white flag)
It would be seen as a double white flag though wouldn't it? Giving up on the season AND giving up on resigning him.

He's immensely popular in DC, by far the most important player in the history of the Nationals. You don't trade him unless you can get something worth the PR hit.
I live in D.C. and while I'm not as plugged in as I used to be, I can agree with this as long as it is coupled with a hefty dose of a feeling of underachievement.

I think it's quite clear to everyone that Harper has the talent to be in the conversation for best in the game, but with 2015 nearly 3 seasons in the rearview mirror now, it's also quite clear that right now, he isn't. That said, I doubt it makes sense to trade him even if they think their odds of resigning with them are low.
   26. Nasty Nate Posted: July 29, 2018 at 10:15 AM (#5717621)
It would be seen as a double white flag though wouldn't it? Giving up on the season AND giving up on resigning him.
Good point.

But I think fans will be disappointed if he's not on the team next year regardless of when it became a fait accompli.
   27. Sunday silence Posted: July 29, 2018 at 04:45 PM (#5717701)


one can argue that the pythag is essentially already incorporated into the projection and is unnecessary.


But is that really true Walt? You just got done saying that Pyathog. isnt the issue here since they only project to .544 or whatever going down the road.

I thought the issue would be more like say a team is hitting .280/350/450 but only scoring 4 runs a game when they should be scoring 4.5.

So that isnt strictly based on runs scored/given up; which is pythagorean. I thought you were alluding to this but the quoted sentence seems to contradict this.

***

Their whole methodology seems kind of whacked to me. THey have the Nats as 12x more likely to win the world series than the silly Pirates. Well OK the Nats have really good front line pitching, but 12x! They're a game behind the Pirates and both teams are similarly situated vis a vis the WC and division. Hmmm

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