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Should the Nationals actually consider trading Bryce Harper?

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USA Today

Should the Nationals actually consider trading Bryce Harper?

Ryan Wormeli: Hello Cam! It's been a few weeks, and that means it's time for another debate. This is one that's been had in our newsroom before, and a few other national publications have started asking similar questions. Should the Nationals consider trading Bryce Harper? You and I actually brought this up as a possible topic in the offseason, with the caveat that it only really works if the Nats are struggling. We didn't expect that to be the case, but here we are in early July and the team sits below-.500.

So, the initial question is two-fold. First off, is there a point where the Nats should even consider trading their biggest star? And, if there is, how close are we to reaching it?

Cam Ellis: I can't imagine that the Nats' brass are too thrilled that heading into their week of national spotlight, most of the conversation surrounding the team is rooted in the struggles of their cornerstone and *extremely Darren Rovell voice* most marketable players.

Quick aside: We've already touched on what's been plaguing him and how the numbers have always pointed towards a positive regression sooner or later. There's no point in relitigating his early season struggles; he's had a bad year. Bryce Harper is not, though, a mendoza-line hitter, regardless of what his first-half results have been. Even if his highs never catch up to his lows in 2018, it's hard to imagine that he stays this bad for this long.

To answer your first question - yes, that point absolutely exists. Whether or not you think there's a realistic chance Harper signs long-term in D.C., Rizzo would be doing the team, the fans, and his job security a disservice if he doesn't have those conversations. Sports are, at the end of the day, a business and if the smartest business decision involves trading Bryce Harper, you trade Bryce Harper. Manny Machado was the face of the Orioles' future until he wasn't.

Secondly, I don't think the Nats are that close to that point. I don't think they should be, either. Being in third place -- seven games out of first -- at the All-Star game is certainly disheartening given this team's expectations, but it's not insurmountable. Trading Harper in the next month would be punting on 2018, and I don't think you punt on 2018 with a team this talented. Is that naive?

Ryan: I don't think so, and I do want to clarify this as a discussion about what should happen, and not what could. I don't think there's even a remote chance that this happens. It just doesn't seem like prematurely breaking up a star-filled team like this one is in their DNA, and I can't exactly fault them for that. Plus, pointing to the major injury struggles is legitimate, and provides an easy excuse for management when evaluating the rocky first half of 2018. Rizzo himself has said he views returners like Daniel Murphy and Adam Eaton as pseudo midseason acquisitions, so this team rightfully expects to be much better than .500 post-All-Star break.

Still, it's hard to stomach the idea of a guy as legendarily talented as Harper walking for nothing. Yes, the Nats still *can* win, but is it likely? Just making the Wild Card Game probably isn't worthwhile, since a one-game playoff is essentially a coin flip. The Braves are young, and we've talked before about how we expect them to fall off a bit, but they are still supremely talented and will probably make valuable additions of their own before the trade deadline. Not to mention, that seven-game lead with three months left is nothing to sneeze at. The Nats may have an easy schedule moving forward, but the Braves (and Phillies) will have plenty of chances to beat up on the Mets and Marlins too.

Cam: Yeah, that’s assuming the Phils and Braves continue their pace, which I’m skeptical about. But I’ve been saying that for 2 months now, so who really knows.

I think it’s impossible to answer this without knowing Harper’s interest in staying here long term. So with that in mind - what does a trade for Bryce Harper look like? And who off the top of your head would be buyers?

Ryan: That's definitely a big part of the equation. It's easy to say the team should trade a departing free agent if they are getting back multiple elite prospects, but I don't know how realistic that is given the rental nature of a trade for Harper, coupled with his struggles at the plate this year. I trust most GM's to understand he's been more unlucky than bad, but his numbers would certainly be held against him during trade negotiations, and it would be highly disappointing to sell low on a guy like Harper.

It's tough to narrow down the potentially interested teams for Harper. The Phillies are one obvious team with a need at corner OF, but we can almost certainly rule out a trade within the NL East. The Brewers already have a glut of outfielders, and the Yankees and Red Sox are also already stacked at the positions Harper would play. The Angels would love to team Harper with Trout, but Calhoun and Upton are the least of their problems right now. The Astros, believe it or not, could use an update in left field, but they've already got a future OF stud in Kyle Tucker waiting for his opportunity.

That leaves three or four real possibilities. I don't think the Dodgers are a fit, but they have a quality farm system to draw from and are proven to be aggressive. My three favorite matches are the Indians (running away with their division, but still need more talent to match up with the Yankees/Red Sox/Astros triumvirate), Mariners (have a great record, but a bit of smoke-and-mirrors with their record in one-run games, and they have plenty of incentive to break playoff drought), and the Diamondbacks (who have some appealing pitching prospects, are trying to hold off the Dodgers in the NL West, have expressed interest in acquiring a star position player, and have a real need in the outfield).

Obviously, we can't know Harper's actual interest in staying, but I have to believe the Nats will at least be strongly considered come October. If they do pursue a trade, though, what sort of package do you need to see in return in order to feel comfortable? And how likely do you think it is that a team would offer it?

Cam: I think that regardless of Harper's value, it's a bad time to be selling off major talent. Just look at what the Nats had to give up for Kelvin Herrera. Having two fringe Top-10 prospects headline the return is a far cry from even two years ago, when teams were trading their top prospects for mid-season relief rentals.

Obviously Harper would still garner more of a return than even the best bullpen options, but the market is strongly learning towards buyers right now. If I'm the Nats, I don't pick up the phone unless the other team is starting the offer with a bonafide player and a Top 2 prospect. His impending free agency probably means you can't get full, farm systyem-gutting value that stars like Harper usually go for, but trading away a team cornerstone without getting a potential one in return isn't something Mike Rizzo is going to do.

Ultimately I don't think there's any real chance the Nats trade Harper this year. I think the front office is too invested in this core's championship window and throwing in the towel of all towels this year wouldn't make much sense. I think even if the Nats are nine, 10 games back at the All-Star break, they don't sell.

Ryan: I'm inclined to agree with you. I don't foresee any scenario in which the Nats elect to trade Harper. Part of that is what a sea change it would represent; it's never been in their nature to give up on a potentially great season, and I have to believe they still think 2018 can be great.

It's also important to note that they surely plan on making a competitive offer to keep Harper in D.C. long term. There's an intrinsic value to be had in terms of not uprooting Harper in the middle of the season, in addition to the exclusive negotiating window they'll enjoy. If there was a less than zero chance of keeping Harper beyond 2018 (think Manny Machado in Baltimore) then it would be more reasonable to think the front office should take an objective look at the roster/standings in making this decision. The fact is, though, that there is a real legitimate chance that the Nats keep their superstar in town, even if it's not currently clear who the favorite will be come the offseason. And not trading him away for two months could (emphasis on COULD) end up being the difference in not seeing him walk this winter.

If the Nats do hold onto him, yet fail to make a World Series run, it will be disappointing, and there will surely be a segment of fans who retroactively complain that the front office failed to read the tea leaves. Still, there's something to be said for being aggressive and just plain going forward. If you told me three months ago that we'd be having this conversation in July, I would have laughed you out of the room. While the Nats have struggled, they just haven't been bad enough to make such a drastic move.

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MLB names All Star Futures roster, features Nats and Orioles prospects

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MLB names All Star Futures roster, features Nats and Orioles prospects

The 2018 MLB All Star week is just around the corner! Washington, as well as the Nats, seem to be gearing up with city-wide events and a potential comeback, respectively.

While All Star fan voting wraps up – which the Nationals' candidates need a boost in – the minor leaguers who will play in the Futures game have been selected.

The game, which is scheduled for Sunday, July 15 at Nationals park, will feature two teams, with American players on the U.S. team and international players on the World squad. Players hail from A, AA, and AAA teams as well as national junior teams, and range in age from 18 to 25.

Two Nats prospects and two Orioles prospects will participate. For the Nationals, infielder Carter Kieboom (currently playing with the Harrisburg Senators AA) will be on the U.S. roster, and Luis Garcia (Hagerstown Suns A) of the Dominican Republic will play infield for the world team.

The Orioles boast Australian pitcher Alex Wells (Frederick Keys A) on the world roster and infielder Ryan Mountcastle (Bowie Baysox AA) on the U.S. roster.

As we wait for the MLB All Star Game roster to be announced, other events continue to shape up, including the Home Run Derby on Monday, July 16 and the PLAY BALL Park at the Yards near Nationals Park. After the Futures game will be the Legends and Celebrities game, and a musical performance from Shaq and Florida Georgia Line. 

This will be Washington, DC's first time hosting the MLB All-Star festivities.

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Ultimate Guide to 2018 MLB All-Star Week in Washington D.C.

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USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Guide to 2018 MLB All-Star Week in Washington D.C.

Major League Baseball is quickly approaching the halfway point of the 162-game season, which means it's almost time for the 89th annual Midsummer Classic. 

On Tuesday, July 17, Nationals Park will play host to the 2018 MLB All-Star Game. But All-Star Weekend is far more than just the All-Star Game. 

With Washington, D.C. playing host to the MLB All-Star Game for the first time since 1969, the city will serve as the epicenter for all things baseball, providing events and activities for diehard and casual fans like.

Individual tickets for the 2018 Home Run Derby are available on the secondary marketplace like StubHub and are currently priced around $150 a seat for Monday night.

Tickets for the 2018 MLB All-Star Game are sold as part of a package. But individual tickets are for sale on the secondary marketplace. The cheapest ticket for the MLB All-Star Game is currently in the $250 price range. 

MLB All-Star Weekend in Washington, D.C.: Schedule

Friday, July 13 to Tuesday, July 17:
— All-Star FanFest. Washington Convention Center (9am - 8pm daily)
— PLAY BALL Park. The Yards. (10am - 7pm daily)
— Armed Services Classic. Nationals Park (5 p.m.)

Saturday, July 14: 
— The Color Run MLB All-Star 5K. The Yards Park (8:00 a.m.)

Sunday, July 15:
— Futures Game, Legends & Celebrity Softball Game. Nationals Park (4:00 p.m.)
— All-Star Weekend Sunday Cookout. Lost & Found DC, (all day)

Monday, July 16: 
— All-Star Workout Day
— 2018 MLB Home Run Derby. Nationals Park (8:00 p.m.)
— Home Run Derby Party at Up Top Acres. The Farm at 55 M Street (7pm - 2am)

Tuesday, July 17:
— 2018 MLB All-Star Game. Nationals Park ( 8:00 p.m.)
 

MLB All-Star Weekend in Washington, D.C.: Things To Do

1. 2018 MLB All-Star FanFest
When: Friday, July 13 to July 17 (9 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
Where: Washington Convention Center.
Tickets: Tickets for all the All-Star Weekend events can be purchased online by clicking here.

Get your best selfie face ready and hang out with current and former big names surrounding the Nats' organization. Find the detailed schedule here. 

Tickets are priced at $35, but follow along on Twitter for special deals leading up to events:

2. PLAY BALL Park 
When: Friday, July 13 to July 17 (10 a.m. - 7 p.m. daily)
Where: The Yards, Parcel A, Lot 854 Square, near First and M Streets SE

The 56,000 square-foot interactive area provides fun, engaging, and educational activities for youth baseball and softball players and their families. Tickets start at $32.99.

3. Armed Services Classic
When: Friday, July 13 (5 p.m.)
Where: Nationals Park

The Armed Services Classic is a co-ed adult softball tournament comprised of teams of active duty personnel from each of the five military branches.

Tickets are free, and available here.

4. MLB All-Star 5K 
When: Saturday, July 14, (8:00 a.m.)
Where: Yards Park, near First and M Streets Southeast

Register here

5. The Futures Game and Legends & Celebrity Softball Game 
When: Sunday, July 15 (4:00 p.m.)
Where: Nationals Park

The best Minor League prospects go head-to-head in a nine-inning battle followed by a not-so-average game of softball with some familiar faces. Last year's celebrity lineup featured names like Jamie Foxx, Bernie Williams, Jennie Finch and Jessica Mendoza. Tickets are still available. 

Shaq and Florida Georgia Line will each perform, too. 

6. All-Star Weekend Sunday Cookout
When: Sunday, July 15 (all day)
Where: Lost & Found DC, 1240 9th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20001

Live music and no cover fee. Join the BBQ Bus Smokehouse cookout from 12-5 p.m. 

7. All-Star Workout Day
When: Monday, July 16 (immediately preceeding the Home Run Derby)
Where: Nationals Park

8. Home Run Derby Party at Up Top Acres
When: Monday, July 16
Where: The Farm at 55 M Street, 55 M Street Southeast, Washington, DC 20003

$4 entry tickets give customers access to purchase Bluejacket beer, wine, burgers and hot dogs. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Find more information here

9. 2018 MLB Home Run Derby
When: Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. on ESPN
Where: Nationals Park
Ticket Prices: Click here for Home Run Derby tickets

Participants will be announced in the week leading up to July 15. J.D. Martinez, Mike Trout, Jose Martinez, Aaron Judge, Francisco Lindor, Nelson Cruz, Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are among MLB's home run leaders.  

10. 2018 MLB All-Star Game
When: Tuesday, July 17 at 8 p.m. ET on FOX
Where: Nationals Park
Ticket Prices: Click here for MLB All-Star Game tickets

The top players from around the League are chosen by fans and select insiders to compete in a nine-inning contest. On Monday, MLB released voting updates: 

N.L.

C- Buster Posey
1B- Freddie Freeman
2B- Ozzie Albies
3B- Nolan Arenado
SS- Brandon Crawford
OF- Nick Markakis
OF- Matt Kemp
OF- Bryce Harper

A.L.

C- Wilson Ramos
1B- Jose Abreu
2B- Jose Altuve
3B- Jose Ramirez
SS- Manny Machado
OF- Mookie Betts
OF- Mike Trout
OF- Aaron Judge

Pitchers for both leagues are chosen through a combination of player voting and Commissioner's Office selections.

As of Monday, Jose Altuve was the lead overall vote-getter with 3.4 million, Mookie Betts was second with 3.1 million and Jose Abreu and Manny Machado had the fewest at 1.3 million.

MLB All-Star Weekend in Washington, D.C.: Parking and Transit

Much like during the Caps' Stanley Cup Final run, D.C.'s Metro is expanding its hours on the nights of the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game. MasterCard is sponsoring the Metro's late-night hours this time. The last Green Line trains will leave the Navy Yard/Ballpark Station toward Greenbelt at 12:22 a.m. and toward Branch Avenue at 12:48 a.m. OR 30 minutes after the event ends, whichever is later.

The city is expecting over 100,000 visitors throughout the week. For the most up-to-date weather, traffic and safety updates, text "DCSports" to 888-777. For the best ways to travel to, from and through D.C. during All-Star week, click here.

Parking passes for the Home Run Derby and 2018 MLB All-Star Game are available on StubHub with prices starting around $50. 

MLB All-Star Weekend in Washington, D.C.: Bars & Restaurants

— Aslin Beer Co. (1299 First St. SE, Washington, DC 20003)

Walking distance from Nationals Park, the beer garden is adjacent to developer Grosvenor's new residential building F1RST, at the corner of First Street and N Street, SE. 

Visit their website for more information on beer choices here

— Bluejacket Brewery (300 Tingey St. SE, Washington, DC 20003)

— The Bullpen  (1201 Half St. SE, Washington, DC 20003)

Located just outside of Nationals Park, watch All-Star coverage on big screens and projectors with a young D.C. crowd. Visit their website here

— Justin's Cafe (1025 First St. SE, Washington, DC 20003)

Looking for a no nonsense sports bar that makes you feel like you're at a neighboorhood block party? Justin's Cafe is for you. 

— Whaley's (301 Water St. SE, Washington, DC 20003)

While not technically a sports bar, Whaley's is one of the premier seafood spots near the ballpark. They have a rose wine garden and the Old Bay chips are very good.  Reserve a table here.

Follow @NBCSNationals for an inside source on all the latest news and conversation leading up to MLB's 89th annual Midsummer Classic at Nationals Park. 

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