Bryce Harper Rumors: Braves Not Expected to Pursue Ex-Nationals Star

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2018

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 16: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals rounds third after hitting a two run home run in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on September 16, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.(Photo by Kelly Kline/GettyImages)
Kelly Kline/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves reportedly won't be players in the Bryce Harper free-agency sweepstakes, according to David O'Brien of The Athletic:

David O'Brien @DOBrienATL

And having said that, I was almost immediately assured (again) by someone I trust in these matters that the #Braves are not -- repeat *not* -- in on Harper and this person doesn't think they will be, said no way they'd give 10-year deal, etc. So, there ya go. Quashing my rumor. https://t.co/2hgL9vUkPY

David O'Brien @DOBrienATL

So far this offseason, #Braves have spent vast majorit of their time exploring potential trades rather than free-agent acquisitions. Markakis still an option, but it's believed they'll consider other options before circling back to him later if still need a corner OF.

Harper, 26, is expected to sign a deal in excess of $300 million this winter as one of the top free agents on the market, alongside Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman and shortstop Manny Machado.

Whether the Braves pursue Harper or not, there seems to be a solid chance he'll remain in the NL East, with the Philadelphia Phillies seen as major suitors. The San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees or Houston Astros could also be in for Harper, however, while the St. Louis Cardinals can't be dismissed:

Derrick Goold @dgoold

Asked about meeting a whopper, free-agent deal like Harper will command (greater than $300 million), Bill DeWitt III says, “We could do it, sure. It’s about (considering) putting all our eggs in one basket. We have the payroll room.” #stlcards #cardinals #MLB

What seems less likely is that Harper will return to the Washington Nationals after Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported in early November that he already turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract from the team.

For the Braves, upgrading a position or two this offseason would make sense, as the team looks to defend its NL East title. The Braves are loaded with young talent, led by Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. alongside Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Sean Newcomb and Dansby Swanson.

The Braves have a strong farm system to either filter talent into the big leagues or to use as trade fodder. But keeping Atlanta's young guns surrounded by solid veterans is key for the Braves, be it via free agency or the trade market.

The key for Atlanta going forward will be keeping a contender around Acuna while maintaining some payroll flexibility for the future. And that may mean that making a major splash in free agency is off the table.

"There's the obvious big names up at the top, but I don't know for our club, with what we have, that the value's going to be there in the free-agent market," Braves general manager Alex​ Anthopoulos said in mid-October, per O'Brien. "Doesn't mean it won't; we'll certainly explore it. But if I have to sit here in the middle of October, I would guess more likely the trade route."