I wouldn’t say all eyes are going to be on Kris Bryant this week in San Diego, because there are a ton of free agents and other trade candidates (including on the Cubs) who will gobble up plenty of eyeballs. But, I mean, a lot of eyes will be on him. Like 10 to 15 or so. I mean, not literally on him, because I don’t think he’ll physically be there. But conceptually, you know? Like 10 to 15 metaphorical eyes will be on the concept of Kris Bry … eff it. I’ve lost the thread.
Anyway. He’s a big topic this week, thanks to the Cubs’ willingness to entertain offers across their roster, and the possibility that moving Bryant for a *SIGNIFICANTLY* impactful return could be so helpful to the Cubs in 2022 and beyond that they might be will to absorb the hit in 2020 and 2021 (while also trying to coordinate other moves around Bryant’s departure to soften that near-term blow). That’s why Bryant trade rumors swirl.
Among the – to date – completely speculative trade concepts involving Bryant, the one we keep coming back to as the most obvious fit is that with the Atlanta Braves. That is not only because they obviously would tremendously benefit from having Bryant over the next two years* (they have Freddie Freeman for two more years), but also because the Braves have surplus talent in areas the Cubs are desperate to acquire: specifically, upper-level/big league impact pitching, big-stuff-big-velo young arms, high-contact bats, and near-term outfield prospects.
There aren’t many clubs out there that could easily put together an acceptable package for Bryant, but the Braves – with a big-league ready impact starter, a useful bullpen arm, an upper-level pitching prospect, and one of their two AAA-level top center field prospects (Cristian Pache or Drew Waters) – certainly could. Obviously we can debate what an appropriate package would look like – I’m sure Braves fans would have a very divergent opinion from us – but there’s a really obvious, compelling fit there.
So, when you see another prediction – from a local beat, no less – that has Bryant going to the Braves in a very similar-looking deal, you take notice.
Winter Meetings Live: Here's what our experts predict will happen in San Diego https://t.co/fUEZocdLt1
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) December 9, 2019
The group of experts, among many other predictions in there worth a look, land on a variety of “biggest trade” possibilities, the top player for which is Kris Bryant. And the idea written up by Jesse Rogers? Pretty specific. “Here’s a prediction: The Cubs will trade Bryant to the Braves for Max Fried and top prospects.”
Fried is a 25-year-old pre-arb starting pitcher who posted an ERA about 9% better than league average last year, with peripherals that suggest there’s a good bit of upside from there. He sports a four-pitch mix and sits near the mid-90s with his fastball. Sound like an ideal trade target for the Cubs?
And from there, as we’ve discussed, the Braves certainly have “top prospects” that fit very well with what the Cubs are hoping to add to the mix, from the excellent pitching prospects to the outfielders (both Pache and Waters project as future big league center fielders who can play exceptional defense and provide at least league-average offense (yeah, you’ve heard this profile before and it didn’t work out, but I’ll say only for now that both Pache and Waters are more highly-regarded prospects than Albert Almora was by the time he reached AAA)).
Is this a conversation the sides have actually had? Rogers isn’t reporting that fact, only making a prediction presumably based on background knowledge, logic, and – let’s be honest – some fun. It does, however, make sense, and it’s all the more reason to be watching the Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson markets very closely this week.
*(Yup, still waiting on that service time grievance decision. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs have flat out negotiated possible trades in alternative scenarios pending that resolution, and a deal could come down the pike at the same time as a decision. Not saying that’s going to happen, but just saying: don’t be shocked if it’s boom-boom like that.)