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MLB Trade Rumors: Nationals Eye Cubs' Kris Bryant Amid Anthony Rendon FA

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2019

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant throws to first to get out Washington Nationals' Howie Kendrick during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, May 19, 2019, in Washington. The Cubs won 6-5. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

The Washington Nationals reportedly have a contingency plan in place if they fail to retain Anthony Rendon, and it could shake up the National League picture.

Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported the Nationals have been in contact with the Chicago Cubs about trading for third baseman Kris Bryant in the event Rendon signs elsewhere. The Cubs' level of interest in trading Bryant is unclear, but the potential of a blockbuster continues to show Washington's seriousness about repeating as World Series champions.

The Nationals already lavished World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg with a reported record-setting $245 million contract and are pushing hard to re-sign Rendon, widely considered the best hitter on the market.

The Cubs and Bryant are in the midst of a service time grievance. He is appealing to have his free agency start in the winter of 2020, rather than a year later, because the Cubs "manipulated" service time rules to call him up after the beginning of the 2015 season. An arbitrator is expected to take "months" to rule on the case.

Without a ruling in his arbitration case, it seems unlikely the Cubs will find a solid market for Bryant. Teams are going to want to know whether they're getting him for a one-season rental or two years at his arbitration rate. The Cubs' lack of progress in attempting a contract extension, along with the fact he is represented by Scott Boras, makes it likely he'll depart Chicago sooner than later.

Bryant hit .282/.382/.521 with 31 home runs and 77 runs batted in last season, a bounce-back from his injury-plagued 2018. While he's not been an MVP-caliber player like Rendon the last couple of seasons, he would be an easy plug-and-play option for the Nationals in the event Rendon's market grows too strong. He was also a six-win player in each of his first three MLB seasons and has the potential to return to that form in 2020.

The idea that the Cubs would trade Bryant rather than look to retain him seems odd, but the relationship between the two sides seems contentious. A smart team with a big bankroll could swoop in now and potentially get him at a discount.