The Nationals are reportedly considering a trade for Cubs slugger Kris Bryant.
Fasten those seatbelts, folks. No, we’re not riding along with Pat Hughes for the ninth inning of a close ballgame. We’re officially in Hot Stove season – one that seems likely to be wildly different than what we’ve grown accustomed to as Cubs fans in recent years.
We have one of our first big rumors of the offseason, dropping on the first official day of the Jed Hoyer era, with the former GM assuming control as the newly-appointed president of baseball operations.
We’ve known that Bryant’s projected $18.6 million salary could wind up being a major issue for the team as it looks to shed payroll and re-tool on the fly. Coming off another injury-plagued, underwhelming season, his trade value has probably never been lower. But that doesn’t mean Hoyer has the luxury of taking a wait-and-see approach, either.
Since the report went public, Twitter has seen its fair share of people saying Juan Soto or no deal from the Cubs side. That’s illogical, unreasonable and, frankly, will never happen. Like it or not, Bryant’s trade value has plummeted since winning the NL MVP back in 2016. He’s battled injuries and has been streaky, at best, offensively.
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A far more likely return (assuming Washington is eating Bryant’s entire salary, which I assume is the big focus on the Cubs’ part) would be built around speedy outfielder Victor Robles or infielder Carter Kieboom. Like Bryant, both have fallen out of the spotlight with their current club. Neither have delivered at the big league level yet, either.
Robles, still just 23 years of age, was once regarded as one of the Nationals’ top prospects. Fans in D.C. envisioned an outfield that was largely covered by the duo of Robles and Soto for years to come. While Soto has emerged as a bona fide superstar, Robles struggled offensively again in 2020, batting just .220/.293/.315 across 189 plate appearances.
He’s a guy who runs well, but doesn’t walk enough to take full advantage of that speed. He struck out a career-worst 28.2 percent of the time this year. But, again, he’s young – and that might be enough to entice Chicago.
Meanwhile, Kieboom has just 44 career big league games under his belt. He’s yet to show he can play at the game’s highest level, particularly offensively. The former first-rounder put up a 66 wRC+ this season – batting just .202 but managing a .344 OBP. Again, both of these guys fall firmly into the ‘potential’ category when you’re looking at return.
This should give Cubs fans the chance to come to terms with the type of return we’re talking about in any Kris Bryant trade. You’re not going to pull a team’s top prospect at this point. Any move will be more about clearing payroll and giving the club more flexibility moving forward, plain and simple.