With the baseball world watching where Bryce Harper will end up as a free agent, one team is confirming that they nearly traded for Harper last year.
Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic had reported last November that the Houston Astros had a deal in place to acquire Harper before the trade deadline in July of 2018, but that Washington Nationals ownership had vetoed it. Now, the general manager of the Astros has confirmed that the report was true.
"There was an agreement in principle in place and it didn't get over the finish line for whatever reason, out of our control. But, yeah, we had interest," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said at spring training Thursday, per the Houston Chronicle. "We had worked out an agreement with players both ways."
Luhnow also said that "that one didn't get reported for a long time and then someone mentioned it late this offseason," presumably referring to the Rosenthal report. That report stated that the deal was reached on July 30 of last year and that players going to Washington would have been pitching prospect J.B. Bukauskas and possibly also catcher Garrett Stubbs.
It had been rumored around the deadline last year that Harper was briefly on the trading block, but the Nationals announced after the deadline passed that Harper would not be traded.
The Astros, after not making the trade, won the National League West and beat Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs, but they lost in the American League Championship Series to the eventual champion Boston Red Sox. The Astros won the World Series in 2017.The Nationals did not make the playoffs in 2018, after qualifying several years in a row.
The Astros have not been mentioned frequently as free agent suitors for Harper, while the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants are seen as the most likely destinations for the star outfielder, who has played his entire career so far with Washington.
There has been little news about Harper this week, even as spring training gets underway across baseball. Several players on the Phillies, per the Inquisitr, said this week that they are "optimistic" that Harper or Manny Machado will end up in Philadelphia.
Earlier in the week, reports stated that Harper was looking to possibly sign a short-term deal with San Francisco, but reporter Jon Heyman tweeted that "despite rumored offers/wishes of teams, the word is Bryce Harper is not signing — or even considering — short-term deals."