Bryce Harper.

A trade the New York Yankees turned down in 2015 may help them land Bryce Harper next year

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Though we're still early in the 2017 season, it's hard not to look ahead to what could happen after the 2018 MLB season is over.

That's because star players like Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, Andrew Miller and several more will be free agents that offseason, barring a contract extension over the next year.

All of those players will be in line to receive huge contracts, and no team may be better positioned than the New York Yankees to land Harper and another player on that list - thanks in large part to a trade they turned down in 2015.

When the Atlanta Braves came calling with a blockbuster deal that year that would involve young Yankees prospects like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and more, the Yankees said no, according to Yahoo! Sports writer Jeff Passan. That, he writes, now has them perfectly positioned to sign Harper to their talented young roster in a couple of years:

"The upper reaches of Yankees management want Bryce Harper, and they can get him," Passan writes. "If they really wanted to shoot the moon, they could target Harper and Machado. It’s a lot easier to spend on pricey free agents when they’re young - Harper and Machado will hit the market at 26 - and when there’s a core of stars like the one New York is building.

"The Yankees’ patience in building the Aaron Judge-Gary Sanchez-Luis Severino core should be applauded. A few years ago, after they’d committed to going young, the Yankees received a whopper of a proposition from the Braves, who were about to start their rebuild: Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, Melvin Upton Jr., Chris Johnson and David Carpenter for Judge, Sanchez, Severino and pitching prospects Ian Clarkin and Manny Banuelos. The Yankees said no. And because of it, nobody in baseball is in a better place to pounce in the 2019 offseason."

Indeed, seeing how much Heyward - who would have been the centerpiece in that deal for the Yankees - has struggled with the Chicago Cubs, the Yankees made the right call.

Meanwhile, Sanchez has developed into a solid catcher with a strong bat and Judge is currently tied for the MLB lead with 15 home runs (along with Harper, ironically).

The Braves, on the other hand, are still mired in the middle of a long rebuilding process, but did manage to find ways to ship most of the players listed above out of Atlanta.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals

It's interesting to think of what might have been for the Yankees if they'd accepted the Braves' offer back in 2015.

However, with them currently leading the American League East standings with a 27-18 record, it's more interesting to think of what might still be to come for the Bronx Bombers if they can add Harper before the 2019 season starts.

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