The Athletic reported Saturday that the Astros and Washington Nationals had a deal in place for the All-Star right fielder at the non-waiver trade deadline only to see it vetoed by Washington ownership.
There had been speculation that Harper could be on the move ahead of the July 31 deadline, with ESPN and multiple reports saying Washington had spoken to teams to determine what type of return package it might receive for him. But on the final day that a non-waiver deal could be made, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo texted The Washington Post to say Harper “is not going anywhere.”
The Athletic, citing major league sources, said Rizzo’s declaration came after Houston and Washington had agreed to the framework of a deal for the right fielder, one that would have sent three minor league prospects to the Nationals, including right-hander J.B. Bukauskas.
The report did not say why Washington ownership vetoed the deal. The Nationals were 53-53 on July 31, some 5½ games out of first place.
The Athletic did speculate that ownership might have feared a deal would hurt the relationship between the sides. Harper was the first overall pick of the Nationals in 2010, and the team, according to the Washington Post, offered him a 10-year deal worth approximately $300 million late this past season — a clear sign it wants him to remain in Washington. The 26-year-old Harper, though, turned it down and now is one of the prizes of free agency, with agent Scott Boras declaring earlier this week that “Harper’s Bazaar” is open for business.
As for the Astros, the move would have marked the second straight season they acquired a superstar for the stretch run. A year earlier, their deal with the Detroit Tigers for right-hander Justin Verlander ultimately resulted in the team’s first World Series title.
The Astros felt short in 2018, still making the playoffs after a 103-59 regular season but falling to the eventual champion Boston Red Sox in five games in the American League Championship Series.