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, we've known 2018 was likely going to be Bryce Harper's swan-song season with the Washington Nationals before a much-hyped foray into free agency.The assumption, though, was always that Harper would play out the entire '18 campaign with the Nats as they tried to finally get past the division series round and make a championship run with their franchise superstar.Now, an intriguing, unexpected question has arisen: Should Washington consider trading Harper before the July 31 non-waiver deadline?Before you scoff, let's consider some facts.The Nationals entered play Sunday with a 48-49 record. That puts them six games behind the Atlanta Braves and 6.5 games back of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East. They're also six games out in the wild-card race with seven teams ahead of them.None of those deficits are insurmountable. The Phillies and Braves are young clubs blossoming ahead of schedule and could wilt under the glare of the pennant race.The Nationals certainly have talent. Their rotation is fronted by Max Scherzer, who's on track to win a fourth career Cy Young Award. Speedy shortstop Trea Turner (12 homers, 22 stolen bases), third baseman Anthony Rendon (15 homers, .872 OPS) and young left fielder Juan Soto (10 homers, .944 OPS) form the foundation of a solid offensive supporting cast.Jennifer Stewart/Getty ImagesAt the same time, second baseman Daniel Murphy, right-hander Stephen Strasburg, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and catcher Matt Wieters have all lost significant stretches to injury.There's an argument in favor of the Nats being buyers at the deadline http://www.tigersfanproshop.com/authentic-jack-morris-jersey
, adding a bullpen piece and maybe another bat and trying for a stretch-run surge. They already acquired late-inning reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals in June.If they try and fail, however, they could watch Harper walk away for nothing. If they trade him now, they'd get a head start building for the post-Harper future.This is where we mention Manny Machado, another impending free-agent superstar whose career accomplishments hew closely to Harper's.Harper is 25. Machado turned 26 on July 6. Prior to 2018, each player had logged six big league seasons. Over that span, Harper compiled27.3 fWAR; Machado's totalwas 23.8.Recently, the Baltimore Orioles traded Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a package of five MiLB chips headlined by powerful outfielder Yusniel Diaz, who immediately became the Orioles' No. 2 prospect, per MLB.com.The O's also netted bat-missing right-hander Dean Kremer and third baseman Rylan Bannon, who'd hit 20 homers at High-A this season. Toss in right-hander Zach Pop and infielder Breyvic Valera, both of whom have upside, and you have a nice haul for a few months of Machado.The Nats were surely paying attention.Rob Carr/Getty ImagesThere are a couple key differences between the Machado trade and a speculative Harper swap.First, the Orioles are buried in last place in the American League East and clearly need to shift into rebuild mode. Trading their superstar was a no-brainer. Second Michael Fulmer Jersey
, Machado is having an unambiguously excellent season, while Harper's stat sheet is muddled.The Nats right fielder has clubbed 23 homers and leads the Senior Circuit with 78 walks. He's also hitting a scant .215.There are reasons for optimism. Harper's .229 batting average on balls in play is well below his career mark of .314. Meanwhile, his hard-contact rate of 40.8 percent is above his career average of 35.0 percent. That suggests a lot of loud, unlucky outs.To put it another way: The last time Harper finished the season with a hard-contact rate above 40.0 percent was in 2015, when he won the NL MVP Award."I was standing in the shower yesterday, and I'm like, 'Man, my body feels great,'" Harper said in June, per Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. "Seriously. I'm strong. I work out every day. I haven't lost any weight, and I feel stronger than ever. When I barrel a ball up, I hit it hard."If the Nationals made Harper available, surely prospective suitors would look past the low batting average, check the peripherals Leonys Martin Jersey
, add in the pop and pedigree and open the prospect vault.We could start rattling off contenders who could use Harper's power and brash infusion of energy, but it's basically as long as the list of contenders.Gene J. Puskar/Associated PressCBS Sports' Mike Axisa posited two things that would have to happen for the Nationals to consider moving Harper: First, they fall out of the race completely; second, they determine it would be impossible to sign Harper to a pre-free-agency extension.That seems right. If they keep their heads above water between now and July 31, the chances of Harper leaving D.C. before the winter are slim to none. As for the extension, well, that seems unlikely no matter what.Even a modest winning streak over the next week could give the Nationals enough hope to go all-in. It would probably take a nose-dive losing streak to shift their thinking in the other direction.Of course, the question of whether the Nats will move Harper isn't the same as whether they should.To the first, the answer is probably "no."To the second, it's a lot closer to "yes" than anyone expected this spring. All statistics current as of Sunday and courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference. BALTIMORE (AP) — The reshaping of the Baltimore Orioles took another significant turn Friday when longtime center fielder Adam Jones was moved to right field to make room for rookie Cedric Mullins.Jones has started in center for Baltimore since his arrival in 2008. The 33-year-old played the position well enough this year, but the last-place Orioles are ready to try someone younger and faster in the middle of the outfield.Manager Buck Showalter called Jones “one of the great center fielders in Oriole history,” but said the 12-year veteran has known for a while that the switch was coming.“It had to be the right guy,” Showalter said. “We think Cedric might be the right guy.”The 23-year-old Mullins had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup against Boston. He was to play center field and bat ninth in his big league debut.This is not a one-day experiment.“Adam will play right and Cedric will play center. That’s the way I perceive it,” Showalter said. “If something happens with Cedric http://www.tigersfanproshop.com/authentic-alex-wilson-jersey
, we’ll see. If something happens with Adam, well, I hope nothing does.”He added: “This is about the future going forward.”Jones’ contract expires after this season. The Orioles attempted to send him to another team before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but Jones had the right of refusal and used it.Now, he will play out the season in right field while helping Mullins adjust to playing center in the big leagues.“Him being the team leader, he’s been very supportive with me playing center field,” Mullins said. “We’ve had a lot of contact about it and just guiding me through it.”Mullins was selected by Baltimore in the 13th round of the 2015 draft. He started the year with Double-A Bowie before moving up to Norfolk.In 59 games with Norfolk, he hit .267 with five homers, 18 RBIs and 12 steals. Mullins also carried a .994 fielding percentage.To make room for Mullins, the Orioles designated Danny Valencia for assignment — yet another move to make the team younger. The 33-year-old Valencia was batting .263 with nine homers and 28 RBIs.“I’d be surprised if he doesn’t land with a contending club,” Showalter said.