It was a rumor for much of last offseason, when Kris Bryant was pretty clearly available in the right deal, and it’s going to be a rumor again this offseason now that everyone knows it’ll take something quite a bit less than “the right deal” to get something done.
The Washington Nationals are looking at Kris Bryant to supplement their lineup and hopefully fill the void left by Anthony Rendon, when he signed with the Angels last winter:
Sources: #Nats are considering a trade for #Cubs 3B Kris Bryant, among numerous hitters they’re currently monitoring on the market. Free agent DJ LeMahieu is another option, as I reported earlier today on @MLBNetwork. @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 20, 2020
The Nationals have only so much longer to capitalize on the window their stellar (but aging) rotation provides, and having a monstrous hole at third base is something they will want to address. The fit here is pretty obvious from their perspective.
From the Cubs’ perspective, there is an interesting angle, too, because the Nationals have not one but TWO of the post-hype types I’ve been talking about as a possible fit for a Bryant deal. That is to say, Bryant’s trade value at this point – because of the down 2020 season, the injury questions, and, most importantly, a single year of control at ~ $20M – is sufficiently low that you aren’t going to get a package of impact prospects for him.
Instead, if you were aiming for a young, controlled return in a Bryant deal, it is going to be for guys who’ve gotten a chance in the big leagues, and have shown their warts. The two Nationals I reference, then, are center fielder Victor Robles and infielder Carter Kieboom.
Robles, 23, was a tip-top prospect for a long time, exploded onto the scene in 2018 with 21 brilliant games at just 21 years old. He slipped to below average offensively in 2019, but the glove was still great in center field. Last year, in the shortened season, however, he was just terrible all around:
Robles’s final year pre-arbitration is 2021, so for as much hype and value as there was early on (we REALLY wanted him last year in a Bryant deal if it was going to happen), there are now considerably more questions about just how much value he’d have in trade. Hence, “post-hype.”
Kieboom, 23, is in a similar spot, though unlike Robles, he’s never shown it in the big leagues, and is more of a pure projection prospect (if he has projection left):
Kieboom was given a shot this year to really grab an infield job and run with it, but it didn’t happen. He’s capable of playing any infield spot, and given his youth and control, the Nationals might be less inclined to move him at this point. But there’s no question that doubt has creeped in about whether he’s going to become a big-league-caliber starting position player going forward, or just a nice bench piece.
At their current level, neither Robles or Kieboom is going to knock your socks off. That’s kind of the point when it comes to where Bryant’s value is. But each does offer talent you could dream on, and maybe they turn a corner in another organization.
To be sure, I’m not saying the Cubs could get BOTH for Bryant at this point (they were rumored as pieces (plus more) in a trade for Nolan Arenado). And it’s conceivable that the Nationals wouldn’t move either one at this point. But I’m just saying: when you talk about the mold of a guy the Cubs could get for Bryant and try to reshape the offense a bit, this is the kind of deal you’re looking at.
Since we know the Cubs are extremely likely to try to move multiple players this offseason, we’ll be keeping a very close eye on rumors like this. Should things percolate with the Nationals to the point where we start hearing names – whether Robles or Kieboom or others – we can dig in a little more on the players, themselves.