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3 trade scenarios for the Nationals to acquire Kris Bryant

3 trade scenarios for the Nationals to acquire Kris Bryant

Less than 24 hours after signing Stephen Strasburg to a seven-year, $245 million deal, the Nationals have reportedly already pivoted to their other major position of need: third base.

Anthony Rendon is still a candidate to return to D.C. after Nationals President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo left the door open in a press conference Monday. But if the two-time Silver Slugger turns elsewhere, the Nationals are already exploring their options.

Bryant is a lifetime .284 hitter coming off a season in which he posted a .903 OPS and hit 31 home runs. The 2016 NL MVP is signed through the 2021 season but has filed a grievance against the Cubs for manipulating his service time. A decision isn’t expected until January, but Cubs President Theo Epstein told ESPN he’s confident the arbitrator will rule in Chicago’s favor.

The Cubs are exploring trade options in an effort to shed salary after Chicago finished with the third-highest payroll in the majors last season. Bryant, who can play both corner outfield spots as well, figures to net a strong return if the Cubs are able to trade him.

Washington doesn’t have the deepest farm system but could put together a few packages that might pique the Cubs’ interest depending on what path they’re hoping to go down. Here are three trade scenarios that could land Bryant in the District.

Cubs’ goal: Kickstart a rebuild

Nats’ offer: Carter Kieboom, Mason Denaburg, Tim Cate for Kris Bryant

When the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, it looked to be the start of a dynasty that would dominate the sport for at least the next half-decade while stars like Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks were under contract.

Instead, Chicago has taken a step back each year. After losing in the National League Championship Series in 2017, the Cubs were knocked out in the Wild Card Game the following season before missing the playoffs entirely in 2019. Epstein expressed frustration with the team’s results in a radio interview last season, saying the Cubs’ “failure to play up to our ability, up to our potential” was the biggest contributor to their inconsistent play.

If the front office is looking to begin a teardown, then the Nationals would have to dig deep in their farm system to put together a viable package.

Kieboom is the 20th-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline and would be the centerpiece of negotiations. Denaburg was drafted in the first round in 2017 and considered several years away, but he’d immediately have one of the highest ceilings of any pitchers in the Cubs’ depleted minor-league system. Cate is much farther along than Denaburg and pitched well at High-A Potomac last season, plus he’s left-handed.

The Cubs wouldn’t have an immediate solution at third base, but if the goal is to net as much prospect capital as possible then this would be Washington’s best offer—that is, if Luis Garcia and Jackson Rutledge are untouchable.

Cubs’ goal: Build toward the future but remain competitive

Nats’ offer: Carter Kieboom, Joe Ross, Wil Crowe for Kris Bryant

All things considered, the Nationals probably won’t be in the running for Bryant if the Cubs are seeking solely prospects. Washington’s farm system isn’t much better off than Chicago’s and there are plenty of other contending clubs who could put together a better deal.

But if the Cubs are looking to fill a need while also dumping Bryant’s contract, the Nationals have plenty of back-end starters with some value. Joe Ross, Erick Fedde and Austin Voth are all out of options heading into 2020 and likely competing for the No. 5 spot in the Nationals’ rotation. Washington could make that decision easier by shipping one of them to the Cubs, a team that also has several question marks at the back of its rotation.

Washington could allow the Cubs to pick their favorite of Ross, Fedde and Voth then package their choice with Kieboom and a prospect like Wil Crowe or Sterling Shepherd. Crowe and Shepherd are both knocking on the door of the majors and could contribute either in the rotation or the bullpen as soon as next season.

The Cubs would then be able to slot Kieboom in at either second or third base with Javier Báez entrenched at shortstop. He’d then have David Bote, Ian Happ and possibly Ben Zobrist behind him in case he struggles to start the year.

Cubs’ goal: Cut salary but don’t lose any present value

Nats’ offer: Adam Eaton, Joe Ross, Jackson Rutledge for Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber

If the Nationals deem Kieboom untouchable, as they have in the past, then they’re going to need to get creative if they’re going to want Bryant.

One of the Cubs’ biggest weaknesses over the past few years has been at leadoff. Since Dexter Fowler departed for free agency after the 2016 season, 56 different players have batted first in the order for Chicago. Eaton would be the bonafide leadoff hitter they’ve been looking for and could slide in for Schwarber at left field.

Rutledge was the No. 17 overall pick in the 2019 draft and is considered to have potential ace upside down the line. If the Nats won’t trade Kieboom, he’s probably the guy they’d have to let go. Ross (or Voth or Fedde) slides into the No. 5 spot in the rotation for pennies compared to anyone on the open market.

Schwarber, while a better hitter than Eaton, is actually projected to make slightly less than him in 2020 at $8 million (compared to Eaton’s $9.5 million salary). But given Schwarber has two years of control, he would make more in arbitration in 2021 than Eaton’s $10.5 million team option.

All in all, the Cubs would save around $15 million in 2020 salary alone by making this deal while adding a pitching prospect who has the potential to be a top-flight starter, a leadoff man and a cheap starter who would be in the mix for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

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Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

If Ryan Zimmerman did not return to the Nationals, he at least would have a future teaching how not to negotiate.

Zimmerman openly drove down his bargaining leverage for almost a year before signing a one-year deal on Friday to return to the only professional team he’s known, a source confirmed. The deal is reported at $2 million.

Throughout the season, Zimmerman openly discussed his interest in returning and understanding it would be at a low rate. As if his stance wasn’t already clear, Zimmerman explained at a screening of the Nationals’ championship video he would return or play more golf.

“So, we’ll be good to go,” Zimmerman said.

It’s baseball for now. Zimmerman rejoins the defending World Series champions to play his 16th season. He’s a 35-year-old platoon player this season. Zimmerman’s money and legacy have been established. He’s back in the fold to pursue another title. 

And he makes an already old Nationals team older. Zimmerman turns 36 years old the day after the 2020 regular season ends. Howie Kendrick will be 37 years old by midseason. Asdrúbal Cabrera is 34 years old. Eric Thames is 33 years old. Will Harris is 35, Daniel Hudson 32, Sean Doolittle 33, Max Scherzer 35, Kurt Suzuki 36. Yan Gomes will be 33 just after the All-Star break. 

Zimmerman will share first base with Thames and, occasionally, Howie Kendrick. They provide an intriguing splits-based platoon. Thames hits right-handers well -- 23 of his 25 2019 home runs came against them, as did much of his opportunity in Milwaukee -- and Zimmerman has a .917 career OPS against left-handed pitchers. Zimmerman is the much better defender.

He’s back because he -- and the Nationals -- believe Zimmerman’s production remains directly tied to his health. His September and postseason work showed Zimmerman’s bat speed remains intact. He is quietly one of the better defensive first baseman in the league. They think they can protect him. Overall, the Nationals are so comfortable with an expanse of older players because they plan to shield them with limited usage. Also, Josh Donaldson went to Minnesota, clearing the cash and providing a need for Zimmerman. 

Kendrick, Cabrera and Starlin Castro can play various infield spots. Thames and Zimmerman will reduce the other’s role, as well as pinch-hit when not starting. Davey Martinez has options. He also has the challenge of rotating players. One thing on his side: older players know they are just that. Grousing about playing time should not be an issue with the group, the majority of which played as role players last year on the way to a World Series title. 

One other thing to note about Zimmerman: he’s 30 home runs short of 300. Can he get there with another two years on the field? He has at least one more to add to his total, assuring his driver has another lonely summer.

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Scott Boras vehemently disputes the Jose Altuve buzzer-cheating rumors

Scott Boras vehemently disputes the Jose Altuve buzzer-cheating rumors

Renowned MLB agent Scott Boras outright denied the buzzer-cheating rumors surrounding his client Jose Altuve, in an interview with TMZ.  The high-profile agent didn't mince words about the allegations. 

After Altuve hit the series-clinching walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, the Astros' star appears to tell his teammates not to rip off his jersey. This led to rumors that he was hiding a device underneath it.

It's not factual," Boras said. "It's just innuendo."

There is nothing to any form of electronic dynamic," Boras told the reporter. "The Commissioner's office studied it. Everyone knows it."

Altuve publicly denied the rumors regarding the buzzer to help him tip pitches last weekend at the Astros' winter FanFest.

Altuve congratulated the Nationals on winning the World Series and believes everything from the fallout of the trashcan scandal will be resolved in due time.

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