For the second offseason in a row, the Nationals are rumored to be interested in trading for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant.
Given the Nationals’ glaring hole at third base that’s emerged since Anthony Rendon left in free agency after the 2019 season, Bryant and his .889 OPS would address a critical need for Washington. However, trading for the Las Vegas native would also add fuel to the growing narrative that the Nationals love taking subtle shots at Bryce Harper.
The former Nationals outfielder grew up playing against Bryant, each representing the two best players to come out of the Las Vegas area in a generation. While playing for Washington, Harper once posted an Instagram photo of them with their wives captioned with the hashtag #Back2BackOneDay. Bryant confirmed they’ve talked about it, even if it was only half-serious.
So when NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes heard about the Bryant to D.C. rumor, his mind immediately jumped to a certain Philadelphia Phillies slugger.
“One of my first thoughts was Bryce Harper,” Hughes said on the Nationals Talk podcast. “This is a childhood friend of his, a guy who played on his Little League team. I think adding Bryant would probably give him an added sense of FOMO. He wanted to re-sign here. I think it’s pretty easy to deduce that he wants to play with Kris Bryant at some point in his career. He’d probably like to, people have always tied them together. Maybe this would add to the Nats-Phillies rivalry.”
The Nationals lost Harper to the Phillies during the 2018-19 offseason, when he signed a 13-year, $330 million deal to spend the rest of his career with Washington’s division rival. Since he left, the Nationals won a World Series and watched Juan Soto replace him as the star in the middle of their lineup. The Phillies, meanwhile, have missed the playoffs twice while Harper has hit .262 with a .903 OPS.
But both teams head into an important offseason with several holes to fill. The Nationals need either a second or third baseman, a corner outfielder, a starting pitcher and at least one or two bullpen arms before they can think about competing with the Atlanta Braves for the NL East crown next season. The Phillies are expected to lose star catcher J.T. Realmuto to free agency and need to find a way to boost both their bullpen and rotation in order to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.If the Nationals really did want to irk Harper, it would follow that Realmuto is in their plans as well.
“What if the Nationals wanted to build a roster with trolling Bryce Harper in mind?” Hughes asked. “Like what other moves they would make. They’ve already done one of them by the way: They brought in Hunter Strickland. That was a very ironic move as it pertained to Bryce Harper. If you get Kris Bryant, then maybe you could sign J.T. Realmuto and sign him away from Harper’s team.
“It’s a guy who Bryce Harper openly advocated for the Nationals to trade for while he was here. If those two things happen, if they trade for Kris Bryant and sign J.T. Realmuto, then this will go from a conspiracy theory to a theory to maybe actually like an actual thing and you heard it here first.”