The Astros and Nationals share a Spring Training site, but there isn’t exactly a lot of shared history between the two franchises as they prepare to meet in the World Series. The Astros hold a 244-207 all-time record over the Nationals/Expos, and the no-hitter that Larry Dierker threw against the Expos back on July 9, 1976 is probably the most historically significant game to ever take place between the two clubs….until Tuesday’s Game 1, that is.
There isn’t even a lengthy or significant trade history to work with in finding links between the two clubs, as the last deal between Washington and Houston took place back in 2007. However, the reigning pennant winners came close to a much more significant trade in July 2018, when Bryce Harper almost became an Astro. As detailed by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) last November, the two teams had worked out the framework of a trade that would have sent Harper to Houston for a three-prospect package headlined by right-hander J.B. Bukauskas. The other two prospects were a pitcher in the lower minors and catcher Garrett Stubbs “was in play” to be the third piece, Rosenthal noted.
The swap was ready to go by July 30, the day before the trade deadline, though Nationals ownership stepped in to veto the proposal. The Lerner family was still hopeful of re-signing Harper to a new contract either in free agency or even before he hit the open market, and didn’t yet want to part ways with the star outfielder. For similar reasons, a potential August trade between the Dodgers and Nationals that would have seen Yasiel Puig head to D.C. and Harper go to L.A. was also a no-go.
The idea Harper going to the Astros is such an eye-opening concept that the entire baseball world would have been shaken up had the trade been completed. Here are four of the larger ripple effects that could have emerged if Harper had indeed donned Houston orange in July 2018…
Do The Astros Win The 2018 World Series?
Maybe the most obvious question of the bunch, as the Astros had a surprisingly middle-of-the-pack offense in the second half of the 2018 season. With Harper’s bat in the lineup, perhaps Houston (who won 103 games in real life) could have scored enough extra victories to overtake the 108-win Red Sox for home-field advantage throughout the postseason. If not, perhaps at least Harper helps the Astros generate enough offense to overcome the Red Sox in the ALCS. Astros hitters combined for a mediocre .219/.337/.385 slash line in Houston’s five-game loss, and while pitching (a combined 5.52 ERA) was the Astros’ larger problem against Boston, it’s worth noting that Sox hitters had only a .710 collective OPS.