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Why Giants' Bryant exchanged bats with Harper before deadline

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Bryce Harper

The second time proved to be the charm for Farhan Zaidi when it comes to chasing former MVPs from Las Vegas. 

Three years after he came up just short in his pursuit of Bryce Harper, Zaidi added Kris Bryant to the Giants' lineup at the trade deadline. Together, those count as Zaidi's biggest free agency push and biggest actual move in three years in San Francisco, but that's far from the only connection between Harper and Bryant.

The two are longtime friends, and when the Chicago Cubs played the Philadelphia Phillies in early July that led to an exchange that briefly raised some eyebrows in Philadelphia. Harper started using one of Bryant's bats just before the trade deadline, which fueled some speculation that perhaps he was trying to send a message to his front office. 

On this week's Giants Talk podcast, Bryant explained how there was actually a very simple reason. 

"When he played against us, I said, 'Hey, send me one of your bats over,' because I just like to use other people's bats," Bryant said. "I don't think he even asked for one of mine so I just sent him one of mine anyway, and then he used it in the game and I think he hit an inside-the-park home run or started hitting some home runs, and he texted me and he's like, 'Can you send me two more of those bats ASAP?'"

 

"Louisville (Slugger) couldn't make them that quick, so I overnighted them to him," Bryant continued, smiling. "And since then he's kinda been taking off, so I'll take some credit."

Harper has a 1.071 OPS and eight homers in 38 games since the end of that Phillies-Cubs series, and he briefly seemed to be the frontrunner for the NL MVP award as the Phillies took off and Fernando Tatis Jr. sat on the IL. While the Phillies have slowed down in the last couple of weeks, Harper still is producing, although it's unclear whose bat he's using these days. 

For Bryant, this was nothing new. He's one of many stars who likes to tinker during a season and occasionally grab a teammate or opponent's bat. 

"It's such a weird game and that happens sometimes," Bryant said. "I've certainly done it in the past, too. I've used someone else's bat and done great with it."

Bryant and Harper are separated by just a year and grew up playing against and with each other in Las Vegas. They are part of a growing group of big leaguers from the area that includes Joey Gallo, another slugger moved at the deadline. 

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Bryant said he works out with about 40 Las Vegas-based players in the offseason and noted there's enough talent there to put an entire team together. He's not surprised that his hometown has become such a hotbed for big league talent. 

"You can play baseball year-round," he said. "Obviously the summer months are tough, but in the middle of the winter you're out there playing tournaments and games, and I think that's what really has helped me and maybe some of the other guys be good baseball players, because baseball is all we played. Playing year-round, there's something to be said about that. You just develop."