I recognize that Theo Epstein is never going to say, “We have never, ever discussed Kris Bryant in a trade, and we absolutely, unequivocally will not ever do so.” The Cubs don’t have untouchables as a rule, so Epstein will always leave open the door if someone wants to chat about anything.
For me, knowing that was enough to dismiss the rumor that the Cubs were making Bryant available in trade this offseason. You throw in the fact that finding appropriate value for a guy like Bryant – for a competitive team like the Cubs – is nearly impossible, especially when the guy is coming off a season impacted by a shoulder injury that needs healing in the offseason. That is to say, I didn’t need to hear Epstein say the Cubs are looking to add guys like Bryant, not subtract them, to know what the Cubs’ philosophy would be on this issue.
Nevertheless, the initial rumor is persisting by way of Buster Olney and now Dave Kaplan, who are drawing a very fine line about what exactly has transpired:
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) November 13, 2018
What Kaplan and Olney are saying here is that the Cubs – more than just operating with a “no untouchables” philosophy – went out of their way to specifically tell teams they are ready to listen to offers on Bryant. That’s not quite the same thing as trying to trade a guy, and Kaplan and Olney are not saying that. But they are saying something much, much more remarkable than standard operating procedure.
So, what do we make of this? Well, the most important thing for me to communicate to you is that I don’t think it matters, because there is not going to be a realistic trade out there that makes sense for the Cubs. Keeping Kris Bryant is the best deal out there for the Cubs, and that’s what they’re going to do.
As for the persistence of this rumor – and of the Bryant-rejected-a-monster-extension rumor from Kaplan earlier in the offseason – it sure seems like somebody out there is doing some talking. Are they speaking from a good place of knowledge? Are they speaking without ulterior motives (like, for example, to drive a wedge between the Cubs and Bryant’s camp)? Are reporters encapsulating the context perfectly?
Well, we can’t know the answers to those questions for sure. Such is the nature of rumors from good reporters through anonymous sources. My MO in these situations is that I trust that these guys have legitimately heard these things from legitimate sources, and they are presenting the information as best they can. But then I’m left to deconstruct the rumor with the best sense I can muster between my ears.
Here, like I said, I simply don’t see the Cubs doing anything more than listening to the world on any and every player (heck, maybe the Cubs were reaching out to teams on trades, said everyone is available, one team asked, “Does that include Bryant, heh heh?” and the Cubs were like, “Yeah, sure, why not?”, and then everything followed from there).
Like we said this morning in the Bullets, I absolutely do think the front office would be justified in trying to put together a transformative offseason. There is too much at stake in this competitive window to lay idle and hope for another good year. But a huge part of the reason there even *IS* a competitive window is because of Kris Bryant! Play the man while you have him! And add to him!