A modest update on the third base market this afternoon since things could be moving very quickly.
As expected, the Nationals are among the post-Anthony-Rendon contenders for Josh Donaldson (in their case, very literally), and they see Kris Bryant as maybe even better, depending on the price:
Nats still have interest in Josh Donaldson. May like Kris Bryant even more, but want to hold Victor Robles, who could interest Chicago.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 12, 2019
Although the contents of that tweet shouldn’t surprise anyone who is paying attention, it is still interesting to see it coming, presumably, from connected sources.
Layers to note:
- The Nationals are competing with the Braves and Phillies not only for the NL East (where the Mets are also improving), but also directly for these two third basemen, so there is all kinds of chicanery going on with the rumors. I’m sure a lot of it is totally bogus in ways we can’t even predict. But we’ve gotta try.
- If the Nationals do indeed like Bryant more than Donaldson, this sounds like a message you put out there to try to talk the Cubs down (as we saw earlier today).
- If the Nationals actually really want to land Donaldson, then this sounds like a message you put out there to try to wrap things up. We’ll see if Donaldson-Nationals connections pick up over the next 24 hours.
- The whole “who could interest Chicago” thing pretty much means that, yes, Victor Robles has come up in talks behind the scenes. Maybe not directly between the Cubs and Nationals, but absolutely internally on both sides.
- And of course Robles would interest the Cubs in a Bryant deal. He’s a 22-year-old former tip-top prospect who hit .255/.326/.419 (91 wRC+) in his rookie season, is a line-drive hitter whose minor league contact skills suggest he’s going to be elite on that front, has great speed and baserunning ability, and he rated as the best defensive outfielder in baseball by DRS. If I’m the Nationals, it would be extremely painful to give up a guy like Robles for two years of any player, even a star like Bryant.
- That said, sometimes a thing like this gets out not because a team genuinely doesn’t want to trade a guy like Robles, and instead it comes out as a bit of a float, “Hey, we suspect you really want Robles, and we’re telling you we really don’t want to part with him, but we can have that conversation if you call us …. “
- If Robles is not involved, you pretty much have to get Carter Kieboom, a consensus top 30 prospect who looks like he’ll rake in the big leagues, and could wind up at second base. Robles is, in my opinion, the more attractive piece, but it’s conceivable that a deal involving Kieboom could work, too. The rub in either case is that the Nationals simply don’t have the caliber of young pitching/pitching prospects that will get you excited.