It’s become easy to forget in the flurry of other rumors, and particularly with the interminable wait to get a resolution on his service time grievance, but the offseason began with a very specific rumor connection between the Texas Rangers and Kris Bryant.
A frequent trade partner of the Cubs, the Rangers are looking to compete in the AL West this year, and have a gaping hole at third base that will have them taking a run at free agents Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson, but also consider major trade options at the position. For that reason, Jon Morosi indicated that not only would Bryant be a consideration for the Rangers this offseason, but he pointed to them repeatedly and specifically in early October as a fit.
The problem? The Rangers do not have an elite farm system, and also don’t have the kind of superfluous young big league talent that would be a really compelling part of the return in a Bryant deal (i.e., good enough to deploy on a competitive 2020 Cubs team, while also securing prospects in the deal).
That still strikes me as a problem with the Rangers as a trade partner, only underscored by the latest proposed deal at ESPN (only slightly better than that eye-roller the other day).
The proposal: Kris Bryant for third base prospect Josh Jung, and pitching prospect Cole Winn.
As a prospect package, Jung and Winn is not bad – each was a first rounder the last two years (Winn 15th overall in 2018, Jung 8th overall in 2019), and Jung is a top 50ish prospect in baseball, while Winn is right around the 100 mark. They’re quality prospects, and it isn’t insane to suggest that this is around Bryant’s value in a pure prospect package. Yeah, it feels a little light, but there’s a broader point here: the issue with the Rangers as a trade partner is less about the ability to bundle enough prospects to make an even deal and more about the two sides fitting on a trade that makes sense for the Cubs right now.
The Rangers don’t have the kind of young, impact, big-league ready starting pitching that the Cubs are going to want in a deal like this, nor do they even have an obvious transitional bat to part with that the Cubs could use to soften the Bryant departure (again, with the prospect part of the package it is being the main focus). Maybe if the Cubs were in love with Willie Calhoun or Danny Santana? But even those guys have such obvious warts (Calhoun can’t play defense, Santana has a huge strikeout rate). The Rangers have some nice young relievers, but that’s about it in terms of what they could conceivably move off the big league roster that the Cubs would have interest in targeting right now. (And it goes without saying, relief arms are not going to be the primary – not even critical secondary – pieces in a freaking Kris Bryant trade.)
Even if the Rangers absolutely emptied their farm system, I still struggle to see the right fit for the Cubs, who should not be viewed as being in “sell” mode. There’s too much talent on the big league roster to part with a guy like Bryant and *not* assist the big league roster in at least *part* of such a deal. And since the Rangers’ most appropriate trade pieces from their own perspective are probably their prospects, it’s really hard to see anything happening here.
Much more sensible is the other proposed Bryant trade idea, which would have him going to the Braves for top center field prospect Cristian Pache and likely some of the Braves’ many young arms. Pache, 21, is a top 20 prospect in the game and has already reached AAA, with the thinking that he could be ready for the big leagues this year. Take a chance on a guy like that in center field and pair it with a starting pitcher and a relief arm? That not only gives the Cubs a nice return for the post-2021 smoothing process, but it also has the potential, overall, to see the Cubs’ 2020 performance not dinged too badly (especially when you factor in the financial flexibility to make another move).
To be sure, neither of these deals is actually on the table (that we know about), but these are teams that make sense for a Bryant trade. Thus the discussion – mostly I just wanted to emphasize that I don’t see the Rangers fit.