Welp, so much for what had been one of the more persistent Kris Bryant rumors over the last year. After multiple reports that the Nationals had serious interest in pursuing a big upgrade at third base, it appears as though team ownership isn’t comfortable with the idea of expanding payroll enough to accommodate the move. Assuming, that is, they’d have to deal someone making less than Starlin Castro‘s $6 million.
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Nats “remain unlikely to be a major player for a big-ticket item such as Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant.” The piece also mentions DJ LeMahieu as being out of range for Washington. That comes following a meeting between GM Mike Rizzo and ownership that was expected to provide clarity about the team’s baseball budget for 2021, something you’d think would been communicated quite a bit earlier.
Now, it’s entirely possible there’s a little gamesmanship going on relative to the non-tender deadline. There was some hope early on that the Cubs might simply allow Bryant to enter free agency, but they regained at least a little leverage with the reports that they do intend to offer him a contract. Once that’s official, potential suitors really don’t need to be all that aggressive in their pursuit.
So perhaps Rizzo is simply playing coy and sitting back for a while to see how things unfold. We already know he was unwilling to include a dynamic, cost-controlled MLB player or either of the team’s top two prospects in conversations, so this could be a matter of stringing the Cubs along. Either way, Rosenthal’s subsequent speculation about Washington’s potential free agent pursuits cast a little doubt on the “no money” idea.
The Athletic’s top baseball scribe mentions a combination of either Marcell Ozuna or Michael Brantley to bolster the outfield with James McCann helping behind the plate, which would come to somewhere between $22-28 million depending on how much you trust projections. Bryant’s 2021 salary will be less than that, maybe significantly, leaving room for another player or two. Of course, that’s for just one year of control versus two or more for those other guys.
Feel free to make of this what you will, I’m mainly just including it here for posterity and because I find perverse enjoyment in talking through the context of these rumors.