Dating back to the last off-season, the Washington Nationals have been tied to Kris Bryant. Is this the year they pull the trigger and finally trade for him?
Ever since Washington let Anonthy Rendon walk in free agency, third base has been a blaring problem for the Nationals. Carter Kieboom needs a longer leash, but in win-now mode, the team cannot afford to give him that extra time. Asdrubal Cabrera regressed and is once again a free agent. So it should come as no surprise that the Nationals have once again been interested in the Cub’s star third baseman, Kris Bryant. Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweeted out the following.
Trading for Bryant makes sense for Washington. He is a former MVP, only 28, and fills a position of need. Despite his down year, Bryant has been one of the best at his position since entering the league. He would add an upgrade defensively and the needed protection in the lineup for Juan Soto. Since winning the World Series in 2016, the Chicago Cubs have steadily gone backward, with the team losing some of their competitive fire. A change of scenery might be the best solution for the veteran.
Unlike last year, Bryant’s stock is at an all-time low. He is coming off the worse year of his career, which saw him hit .206, with four homers, 11 RBIs, an OPS of .644, and a 76 wRC+. Defensively, Bryant was slightly above average, posting one DRS and .9 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). To make matters worse, Bryant received $18.6 million from arbitration in 2020 and he is projected to make slightly more for the 2021 season. With one year left on his contract, mixed with Bryant’s terrible 2020 season, and his projected 2021 salary, the Cubs will not be able to receive the same package they would have a year ago.
Washington has a barren farm system and it would be unwise to trade for Bryant without having an extension plan for him in the works. However, in 2021, Washington has plenty of money coming off the books, with notably Max Scherzer being a free agent by then. This will leave plenty of cap room for Washington to work out an extension if they so choose to.
In the past, Chicago asked for Victor Robles as a headliner in return for the third baseman, but with Bryant’s stock at an all-time low, Chicago will have to ask for less. What would a potential trade for Bryant look like? Vincent Parise of FanSided’s Da Windy City outlined three potential proposals for Bryant, with option two making the most sense for Washington.
Tim Cate and Seth Romero are the Nationals eighth and ninth-ranked prospects according to MLB Pipeline. Cate is at least a full year away while Romero is MLB ready, but is blocked by the Nationals stacked starting rotation. Romero struggled in his first chance in the majors but flashed his intriguing stuff. The Cubs need starting pitching and the Nationals can deal from their collection of pitching prospects who have flashed upside but have yet to put it all together. A trade for Bryant hinges on being able to sign him to an extension and if the team believes he will bounce back. In win-now mode, this is a move the Nationals seriously needs to consider.