Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bryce Harper nearly traded to Astros in July, which would've impacted ALCS

John Tomase
November 12, 2018 - 11:45 am

The Red Sox handled the Astros in five games in the American League Championship Series last month.

Imagine beating the same team, but with Bryce Harper.

That's nearly what happened, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Rosenthal wrote that the Astros and Nationals had agree to a blockbuster trade involving prospects that would've sent the former NL MVP from Washington to Houston at the July trade deadline, but Nationals ownership killed it in the hopes of enticing Harper to stay in free agency.

The prospects of that possibility appear dubious after Harper turned down a 10-year, $300 million extension, meaning the Nats are looking at only a fourth-round pick as compensation if the young star leaves for the biggest free agent contract ever.

For our purposes, imagine Harper's presence in Houston. After sweeping the Indians in the ALDS, the 103-win Astros ran into the Red Sox buzzsaw. The Astros hit just .219 for the series and were one bat shy against a Red Sox pitching staff that expertly navigated Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa while daring the rest of the lineup to beat them. Outside of a home run from Josh Reddick and some tough at-bats from Tony Kemp, the Astros fell short.

Harper would've changed that calculation considerably. Even in a down year, he still posted an .889 OPS and led the NL with 130 walks. The Red Sox approach under Alex Cora was to attack everyone, albeit in a cautious fashion with Bregman. Harper would've seen pitches to hit, and he did mash 34 homers during the season.

We'll never know how that particular battle would've turned out, but considering Houston's proposed deal included zero players off its big league roster, the Red Sox would've certainly faced a steeper challenge.