MLB Rumor Roundup: Third Base Trade Market, LeMahieu Suitors

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  • Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is once again a trade candidate this offseason, and a recent champion is interested
  • Fellow star third baseman Nolan Arenado will be in the rumor mill this winter while a current powerhouse appears in the mix
  • DJ LeMahieu is the most coveted infielder on the free-agent market with his former team and an NL East club are involved

The MLB “hot-stove” season should be here by now, but with league-wide economics tainting the fun that is the MLB offseason, things are likely to move quite slowly this offseason, potentially even glacier-type slow.

That said, rumors will continue to swirl and some familiar names are popping up in the trade market while a reigning batting champ has some early suitors, but likely plenty more on tap.

Nationals Involved on Bryant

About this time last year, the Chicago Cubs were pondering on whether to move star third baseman Kris Bryant ahead of his pending 2022 free agency. A service-time grievance held up the discussions, but it doesn’t appear that anything was imminent on the third basemen despite his name consistently swirling as part of the rumor mill.

One season later, the Cubs appear to be more willing to trade Bryant, but this time with just one season left to go before he hits the free agent market. Presumably, any team willing to pony up a pile of future assets should have an extension agreed upon before the deal, and it appears a recent World Series champion could be involved for the 2016 NL MVP’s services.

Indeed, the Washington Nationals are looking into what a deal for Kris Bryant could look like, as per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. Morosi notes that the team is on other bats on the trade or free-agent market, however Bryant has come up according to his sources.

The attraction make sense. The Nats have a gaping hole at the hot corner that top prospect Carter Kieboom was unable to adequately fulfill in 2020 with current free agent Asdrubal Cabrera taking reps from him as the season moved along. Seeing the Nationals interested in upgrading their offense also doesn’t come as a shock given the rash of free-agent bats they’re set to lose.

What’s curious is that they are entertaining a trade for Bryant, certainly with an extension in mind, despite letting superstar third baseman Anthony Rendon walk in free agency just a year ago. At the time, owner Mark Lerner stated the team only had the budget for one of Rendon or 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, and Strasburg got the $245M contract.

A year later, they are apparently willing to surrender a bulk of assets and apparently willing to sign Bryant to a lucrative, long-term deal on the heels of a season in which baseball revenue plummeted.

As curious as it sounds, the move would certainly be a boon to the Nationals’ +3500 World Series odds, although they would need more than just Bryant to get back into the mix.

Arenado in Hollywood?

Could the rich get richer? Coming off a 2020 World Series championship, the Los Angeles Dodgers appear to be willing to trade for star third baseman Nolan Arenado, once again according to Morosi.

Long-time Dodger third baseman Justin Turner will have suitors as the clear-cut top free-agent option at the hot corner, and at 36 years of age, now might be the time to cut bait with the postseason hero.

Arenado struggled at the dish in 2020, posting an 84 wRC+ and his road numbers for his career outside of hitter-friendly Coors Field aren’t all that spectacular as he owns a .793 OPS for his career on the road compared to a .985 mark at Coors.

Nonetheless, he’s an elite glove at third base and has finished the top 10 in NL MVP balloting on five occasions in his eight-year big-league career.

The trade comes with a significant financial commitment, however, regardless of how much the Rockies would be willing to eat to facilitate a deal with a Dodgers team boasting plenty of attractive assets, many of whom are of the win-now variety. If Arenado didn’t opt out of his contract after the 2021 season, he is owed $164M through 2026. The non-contender Rockies don’t appear to be willing to pay such a sum for a superstar on a non-contender, hence the tension between team and player and subsequent trade rumors as a result.

Keep in mind the Dodgers just gave superstar Mookie Betts a 12-year, $365M extension that kicks in next season, but if anyone can take on the monstrous amount of money owed to Arenado, it’s the 2020 World Champs and their +400 odds as favorites to repeat in 2021.

Yankees Looking to Retain LeMahieu, Nats Involved

DJ LeMahieu is the top free-agent infielder on the open market and he’s likely to have a laundry list of suitors, but the Yankees, his home for the last two seasons, are interested in retaining the 2020 AL batting champion.

That said, Jon Morosi also notes that the Nationals are also involved on LeMahieu with a major need at second base, among other positions.

The powerhouse Yankees’ offense could thrive without LeMahieu, but he was an integral part of that lineup as the team’s leadoff hitter and his professional approach at the plate netted him an MLB-best .364 batting average in 2020.

The Nationals gave their second-base reps to Starlin Castro and Luis Garcia in 2020 and could certainly use a player in LeMahieu who could also handle third and first base on top of his natural second-base position. He played all three spots with the Yankees in his Bronx tenure.

As CBS Sports’ Jim Bowden notes, LeMahieu’s preference is to return to New York, and if that’s indeed the case, it appears the Bombers and their +700 World Series odds – second only to the Dodgers – are in good shape to retain their star leadoff man moving forward.

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