Last year Brad Peacock saved Game 3 of the World Series with a nasty slider for his Astros team. He was the bullpen star beating the Los Angeles Dodgers for the World Series championship. This postseason so far, Peacock was left off both the ALDS and the ALCS rosters. The Astros don’t believe in feel good nostalgia as they went with their hottest bullpen. “What have you done lately” is a good mantra for postseason roster construction. So far we have seen Nats alumni in this round of the championship series in prominent roles like Gio Gonzalez, Xavier Cedeno and Ryan Madson. The Red Sox will have catcher Sandy Leon on their postseason roster, but the one name not on a roster is Bryce Harper.
In mid-August, it was reported that Bryce Harper was claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but instead of offering a trade of top prospect(s) they only offered to take him as a salary dump. It was an easy decision for Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo to say there would be no deal. If the Dodgers offered just Keibert Ruiz, would Harper be a Dodger today? Do the Dodgers have enough to get them back to the World Series? We will see, but so far Cody Bellinger is batting .000 in the entire postseason.
Back in July, Harper was there for the taking by any team who could have stepped up with a package acceptable to Rizzo. The Cubs could have had him instead of having to rely on Jason Heyward who was 0-3 in the Wild Card game while stranding 4 base runners in a devastating finish to their season in a 13-inning loss. There are many teams that could have used Harper — but nobody stepped up ‘supposedly’ for one of the game’s greatest game changers. Just ask Hunter Strickland about Harper’s exploits in the postseason.
Leading up to the July trade deadline, Rizzo kept saying he would have to be blown away by a package to trade Harper. The fact he didn’t trade him leads to trusting Rizzo’s word that he wasn’t offered that spectacular package.
“It would have to be a spectacular set of circumstances for us to [trade Harper],” Rizzo said the last week of July. “We’re going to do what we have to do to better this team for 2018 and beyond. That’s one of the superstars in the game and he’s a guy that is near and dear to my heart personally, and in Washington D.C., and is one of the great players in the game.”
With all the trades of key players like Madson, Gio, Daniel Murphy, Matt Adams, Brandon Kintzler and Shawn Kelley, the Nationals did not receive back one player in any system’s top 25 players. They got fringe prospects and could not even get players back to equal the quality they traded away to acquire Kelvin Herrera from the Royals.
Many have questioned what has happened to Mike Rizzo as a trade negotiator. His trades in August looked like salary dumps, and Rizzo more than anyone should know what it is like to be on the other side as a playoff-bound team in need of help. Rizzo paid dearly last year to acquire Sean Doolittle and Madson, and in the prior year to acquire Mark Melancon. Add to that the acquisition of Adam Eaton where Rizzo gave up three of his top pitching prospects, and you have what may have led to the recent parting of ways with assistant G.M. Bob Miller. Add to the angst the bungling of the Nationals Triple-A situation where the Nationals will be playing the next two seasons in Fresno, California.
The best in-season trade for the Nationals might have been Brian Goodwin for Jacob Condra-Bogan. Maybe one of the other trades will equal the impact the Cristian Guzman trade had back on July 30, 2010. That trade looked like a salary dump at the time, but it yielded Tanner Roark so you never know for years to come if a player you picked up in a trade turns into a steal. Harper remains….for now, and he will be watching on T.V. like the rest of us as we wonder if Rizzo was wise to retain him.
“This is my home. This is my city,” Harper said of Washington D.C. “Being able to come here — of course I root for the [Vegas] Golden Knights, and I root for Duke [basketball] and I root for the Cowboys [football team] and things like that — but I’m a Washington National. At the end of the day, I love this city. I enjoy coming here. I enjoy playing here. And that’s what it’s all about.”
“We have a great team — a great organization, and a bright future ahead,” Bryce Harper said. “…My heart lies here.”
For Nationals fans, we can just sit back and watch, and wait.