Bryce Harper Admits He’s Happy He Didn’t End Up With Astros

Tim Kelly
May 06, 2020 - 9:37 am

Before COVID-19 rates exploded or murder hornets made their way to the United States, the Houston Astros had become public enemy No. 1 after a sign-stealing scandal that aided their 2017 World Series title was exposed.

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In an in-depth interview with Jared Carrabis and Dallas Braden of Starting 9, six-time All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper discussed the multiple chances that he could have ended up in Houston, and now says he's glad that isn't how things played out.

"I'm glad I didn't now, knowing what we know - that would have been really bad."

In the interview, Harper acknowledged that he was aware of three teams that showed varying levels of interest in him at the 2018 trade deadline: the Oakland Athletics, Cleveland Indians and the Astros. He says the Astros were the most serious suitor. As noted in our Historical Trade Rumors series, the two sides actually agreed to a deal that would have sent Harper to the Astros before the July 31 trade deadline. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic says that Nationals' ownership prevented the dead from being completed.

Though the Nationals probably felt that trading Harper would burn the bridge in terms of potentially re-signing him in the offseason, Harper pushed back against that notion in the interview. In fact, he credited the New York Yankees for trading closer Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs in July of 2016, acquiring All-Star infielder Gleyber Torres and then re-signing Chapman after he won a World Series with the Cubs. You never know what will happen once you let someone out of your building, but Harper seemed to suggest that he would have been willing to consider a return to D.C. even if the team had traded him away as they fell out of contention during the 2018 season.

Bryce Harper
Bryce Harper joined the Phillies ahead of the 2019 season. Photo credit (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

2018 was a strange year for Harper. Though many expected him to have a monster contract year, he hit just .249 and had a drastic decline defensively, posting -24 defensive runs saved. It didn't help that the Nationals went a disappointing 82-80. Still, he was an All-Star that season, hitting 34 home runs, driving in 100 runs and leading the sport in walks, and he reached free agency at age 26.

There was some thought for Harper that it made sense to sign a deal where he could quickly get back to free agency, whether that be by signing a short-term deal or agreeing to a long-term one that included an early opt-out. Harper says that one of his earliest offers in free agency came from the Astros, who were willing to offer him "stupid" money to play in Houston for a season. Hitting in such a talented lineup would have allowed Harper to chase a World Series, likely have one of the best seasons of his career and set himself up to do even better in free agency the next offseason.

Ultimately though - even without the foresight of one knowing that the Astros were about to be entangled in one of the biggest scandals in baseball history - Harper decided against uncertainty and opted for stability. He signed a 13-year/$330 million deal in Philadelphia, one that included no opt outs and gave him a full no-trade clause. After years of speculation about where his future would take place, Harper ended the debate once and for all, even as teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers held tantalizing short-term offers in front of him.

“And then, at the last second, the Dodgers came in with like a four-year offer with super high AAV and opt outs. And I got so tired of my whole career in D.C. – even after my first year, man – all everybody talked about was ‘where is he going?’ Like, I was a National for seven years, and all I heard was ‘where is he going?’ from local media…from national media. [They said] ‘Is he gonna go to the Yankees, is he gonna go to Boston?’ Every place I would go it was like that. ‘Oh, he’s gonna come to LA because it’s close to home.’ It was always that, every single year and that was so dragging to me because I’d sit there and go ‘dude, I don’t want to talk about where I’m going because I’m locked in here for seven years. I’m not going to the freaken Yankees [now] – it’s not possible.’ So I was just over that, and when the Dodgers came in with opt outs, I was just like ‘I don’t wanna do that because I just don’t want the opt outs. I want a no-trade clause, I want these people knowing that I am here through the good and the bad, that’s it.'”

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