The Los Angeles Dodgers have checked in on the availability of Washington Nationals superstar outfielder Bryce Harper in a possible trade, multiple sources told NBC LA.
Harper is widely considered one of the most talented players in Major League Baseball, but is having a down year in 2018. Not coincidentally, so are the Nats, who at 51-51 are in third place of the National League East and seven games back of the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies. However, sources said the Nationals are still undecided on whether they want to start trading big league players in exchange for younger prospects.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Wednesday that Nationals ownership is pushing general manager Mike Rizzo to do just that. However, Rosenthal also said the Nationals would likely not include Harper among any players they trade.
Harper will also be a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, and will almost assuredly command a massive contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The Dodgers could be interested in signing Harper in the offseason, especially given their front office's widely reported willingness to trade current right fielder Yasiel Puig.
The Nationals could be afraid of Harper leaving in free agency and consider trading him now, per Washington Post sports columnist Barry Svrluga.
"But I also think, in an honest assessment, it’s more likely Harper lands with one of the other 29 teams than he does back in Washington," Svrluga wrote. "There’s a better than 50 percent chance he’s gone."
Slvrluga made it clear he was offering his own opinion in the column rather than reporting insider information, but also said he believes that if the Nationals feel that is the case, they should at least explore trading Harper.
The Dodgers currently have a surplus of outfielders, with Puig, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Cody Bellinger and Alex Verdugo all getting playing time. They will also have to find room for utility players Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez once Justin Turner returns from the disabled list. However, they could be interested in including one of those players in a trade for Harper.
The Dodgers have already made the biggest trade splash of the 2018 MLB season so far, acquiring all-star shortstop Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles on July 19. They were in first place of the NL West as of Friday afternoon, with a 1.5 game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
UPDATE: Sources confirmed to NBC LA, that the Washington Nationals sent at least three scouts, including a top official, to Atlanta this weekend to scout Major League players on the Dodgers roster.
However, with the Nationals inching closer in the National League East, the probability that they become sellers, and trade anyone, let alone Harper, becomes increasingly unlikely.
This is a developing story. Refresh this page for updates.