With the departure of Anthony Rendon last offseason, the Washington Nationals seemingly were a perfect landing spot for Kris Bryant if the Chicago Cubs decided to deal him away.
Though the Cubs’ third-baseman wasn’t quite at his 2016 form, the season he won the National League MVP, entering last offseason, he was still a fearsome middle-of-the-order bat at a position of need for the Nationals. The stars could very easily have aligned.
No team could come to an agreement with the Cubs to part with Bryant though and they held onto their star. However, the situation that led them to consider offers in the first place hasn’t really changed entering this winter.
Despite the departure of Theo Epstein, the Cubs still appear to have an MO this offseason of shedding salary with an increasingly expensive core set to gain even more dollars in arbitration.
ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote last week that they are willing to listen on several of their players...
In conversations with other teams, the Cubs are signaling there will be significant turnover on the roster, with a willingness to move almost any veteran — as well as just about anyone from the core group of position players who won the 2016 World Series, including shortstop Javier Baez.
Rival evaluators are closely following the Cubs’ handling of Kris Bryant, the 2016 NL MVP who will make something in the range of $18 million after posting a .644 OPS in 34 games in 2020. Bryant will be eligible for free agency next fall and the Cubs have made him available for trade in the past, but some officials wonder if ... Chicago can find a trade partner before Dec. 2 given Bryant’s 2021 salary, which may be beyond what almost all teams are willing to pay. “You have to look at it this way. What would he get in salary [for 2021] on a one-year deal if he were a free agent right now?” one official said. “He probably wouldn’t get $18 million.”
The fact that the Cubs, one of the sport’s most well-known brands and highest revenue teams, are looking to shed payroll is baffling in isolation. That said, it’s a prime example of why MLB is in a less than ideal state as a league right now.
If that’s the way they want to look at things though, the Nationals could do them a favor and take Bryant off their hands and give themselves a huge boost to the lineup in the process.
While some will lament the lack of consistency from the starting rotation in the nation’s capital for the team not contending in the shortened 2020 season, that could be easily curable in 2021. Their lineup deficiencies are far more real and need immediate attention.
We now have two sides of a perfect match, so cue the offseason rumor mill kicking in.
The Nats once again appear to have a legitimate interest in Bryant this winter, with MLB.com’s Jon Morosi the first to report it over the weekend before The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and The Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty verified that interest.
That is pretty much where the two sides got to last offseason in trade talks though.
There were reportedly several conversations between Chicago and Washington over Bryant but no deal came to fruition in the end because of the Cubs apparently demanding Victor Robles in a package in a return.
This time around though, the Cubs’ asking price for Bryant figures to be significantly lower.
Sure, the Cubs likely won’t non-tender Bryant and that could be a bluff to get teams to try and bite on a trade earlier in the offseason, but the salary-relief they seek appears to be real.
The main sticking point now will be around how much a team is willing to give up for one season’s worth of a player, even if that player is just four seasons removed from an MVP award.
Would it be wise for the Nationals to give up a somewhat promising prospect or two for just one year of Bryant? Perhaps not. But would it make sense to provide the team’s best asset, its aging rotation who may not have more than one or two more elite seasons in them, with a major upgrade in the run support they receive on a nightly basis? Now we’re talking.
Our own Brett Barnett wrote about how the window could be closed on this group of players. While that may be a bit premature, it’s not too far off base, even with the likes of Juan Soto and Robles under team control for several more seasons to come.
So even if the Nats end up only getting one season out of Bryant before he bolts for free agency, it could be a gamble worth taking for a roster that may be coming to the end of the line.
There’s no doubt that Bryant would be a huge boon to the Nationals’ lineup despite his down 2020 season. It remains to be seen whether the two sides can agree on a trade or if the two sides walk away with no deal for a second offseason in a row...