Reports last month mentioned Kris Bryant as a potential Nationals trade target, but Washington GM Mike Rizzo rather definitively ruled out a Bryant swap during a session with reporters (including ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers) this afternoon.
“We haven’t had a serious conversation about Kris Bryant in probably two years,” Rizzo said. “He was not a big guy on our radar last year or this year. He’s a great player but at this point and time of where we’re at, and what we have in our farm system, and where we’re going, we think we can allocate our dollars and prospect capital in another way.”
As Rogers noted, it’s something of an “unusual step” for a general manager to so publicly and specifically comment on trade negotiations. It could be that this is some gamesmanship on Rizzo’s part if talks with the Cubs are actually still ongoing, though there’s no real reason to believe Rizzo is being anything but forthright in his comments.
Bryant is, after all, coming off the worst of his six MLB seasons, as he battled injuries throughout 2020 and hit only .206/.293/.351 over 147 plate appearances. While it isn’t hard to imagine Bryant returning to his old form with better health next season and with a more measurable sample size of playing time, counting on such a rebound year might not be a risk that the Nats want to take — especially since Bryant is projected to earn an $18.6MM salary in 2021, his final year of arbitration eligibility.
It isn’t yet known if Washington can fully stretch its payroll this offseason, but there have been indications that the Nationals are able to spend some money, if not something in the neighborhood of $18.6MM to one player for one season. The Nats were connected to Carlos Santana before he signed with the Royals, and the District has also showed interest in a former Bryant teammate in Kyle Schwarber.