Although there were some big trades last winter, the offseason revolved almost entirely around free agency – which is what happens when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are available for just (a lot of) money.
This winter, however, is different. While there’s at least one potentially record-breaking free agent deal to be signed (Gerrit Cole) – and likely two others that could eclipse the $200M mark (Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon) – the biggest excitement is all about trades these days. That’s where the juice is. And I’m so here for it.
- To that end … Mark Feinsand (MLB.com) shares five hypothetical blockbuster trades this offseason, based on the players we loosely know to be available. Among the five, you’ll find a deal sending Mookie Betts to the Dodgers, Luis Castillo to the Yankees, Starling Marte to the Padres, and Ken Giles to the Nationals – be sure to check out his article for the full details of those four deals. The fifth trade, however, includes the Cubs, and I’d like to discuss it further.
- The Deal: Third baseman Kris Bryant to the Braves for Max Fried, Drew Waters, Bryse Wilson, and William Contreras.
- The Why: How do you feel about that? On the one hand, it’s easy to see how the contending Braves, who need a replacement for Josh Donaldson at third base, would prefer trading for a star like Bryant than signing one like Rendon. But I think we care more about the other side of this deal, so …
- The Return (Centerpiece): Fried, 25, made 30 starts last year in his first full professional season as a starter, with a 4.02 ERA and 3.72 FIP (3.0 WAR). He struck out 24.6% of the batters he faced while walking only 6.7%. He’s not exactly the sort of flame-throwing arm the Cubs have targeted lately, but his 93.9 MPH fastball and wide repertoire (four-seam, sinker, changeup, slider, curveball) is plenty attractive. Fried is also under control for the next FIVE seasons and isn’t arbitration eligible until 2022. He’s a very good center piece.
- The Return (The Centerpiece II): Drew Waters, 20, is the Braves 2nd best prospect and the 23rd overall prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. In short, the switch-hitting outfielder has a “chance to be an impactful hitter” from both sides of the plate and is expected to be a base stealer and stick in center field long term. He’s also already reached Triple-A, so … hello, future leadoff hitter and center fielder? He’s a very good secondary piece in a Bryant deal (Caution: He does strike out quite a bit!).
- The Return (The Rest) Bryse Wilson (Braves #6 prospect) and William Contreras (Braves #8 prospect and Willson Contreras’ brother) are both good prospects, too, but not really in the headline of this deal. Plus, Miguel Amaya is already the heir-apparent to Willson Contreras, so I’m not sure William is included here for any reason other than it’s fun to include him.
- In any case, if the Cubs were able to get this sort of return – a big-league-ready MLB starter with five years of control plus a switch-hitting, center field, top-20(ish) in MLB prospect who’s already reached Triple-A … plus two more complimentary pieces – I think they should actually consider taking it. That’s a pretty fair deal. Of course, other moves would have to follow to justify parting with Bryant in a competitive window.
- By contrast, I do NOT think they should take this absolute laugher of a proposal:
- That’s just silly. No more discussion necessary.
- Fun read about David Ross’ expected participation in the front office’s free agent and trade pursuits this winter. Ross is expected to be involved in most decisions and tap on his experiences watching all 30 teams the past two years for ESPN.
- Former Giants stud (for a year anyway) and Rays utility man Matt Duffy was DFA’d by the Rays, which … if I’m the Cubs, I’m all over that if he comes cheap. It’s no lock that Duffy, 28, will ever again be the guy he was in 2015 (113 wRC+, 4.4 WAR) or 2018 (107 wRC+, 2.5 WAR), but if he’s healthy there’s a whole lot to like. As a cheap bench target for the Cubs, I’m in.
- Another DFA I’d be (less) interested in is Padres outfielder Nick Martini, whose left-handed, high-walk bat has some appeal in style. However, with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ all capable of hitting from the left-side and taking their walks already in the outfield picture, I’m not so sure there’s such an obvious fit – and that’s without mentioning his less than stellar defense.
- Another (another) could-be-available-for-peanuts player the Cubs front office is totally going to swoop in on is former Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. I genuinely don’t know what he’s got left, but I know he’s intimately familiar with this front office from their time in Boston and that he can be had for next to nothing, as the Yanks are on the hook for his salary. If the Cubs could convince him to take their minor league deal and come to Spring Training to see what he’s got, why not? There’s almost no risk. Note: there’s at least a chance he could just retire.
- Good for Cole Hamels:
Teams that have talked to him say he's seeking a 1-year, Donaldson-esque deal at a high AAV or a 2-year deal north of JA Happ (2 years, $34M). Also open to 3 years at a lower AAV.
Hamels has been linked to Phil & SD. But logical fits include Min, Angels, StL, Atl, Mil, Hou, etc
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) November 22, 2019
- At that level, the Cubs will not be involved. At the same time, I don’t think they made a mistake by not extending the QO. If they had and he accepted, their whole offseason would be shot. And with benefit being just a third round pick … eh. No big deal. Not worth the risk.
- In case you missed it yesterday, the White Sox made the biggest free agent signing in franchise history: $73M to Yasmani Grandal over four years. I find it easy enough to be happy for the White Sox, who have some likable young players … especially because they just got Grandal out of the NL Central *and* may have improved the trade market for Willson Contreras in the process.
- And what do you know, they’re not done yet: “After signing catcher Yasmani Grandal on Wednesday, the White Sox are expected to pursue free agent pitcher Zack Wheeler, according to major league sources.” I have had an outside hope that the Cubs would pursue Wheeler this winter, but (1) he’s a highly sought after free agent, (2) in a deep starting pitching, when (3) the Cubs don’t seem willing to spend. So I doubt there’s any reason to get our hopes up.
- Brett hit the key points:
Former big-time prospect with a big arm and big stuff, but still not all the way back after Tommy John surgery?
Yes, that sounds like a Cubs target. https://t.co/9SU9JWyof9
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) November 20, 2019
- And again
Had a great year at AAA with the Cubs this past year, but didn't seem to get serious consideration for a call-up at any point. Was a minor league free agent. Good for him getting paid. https://t.co/EeRNwG72f8
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) November 21, 2019