The Josh Donaldson free agent decision impacts the Cubs in that he and their biggest (presumed) trade candidate, Kris Bryant, have an overlapping market (Rangers, Phillies, Nationals, Dodgers, Twins, Braves). Put simply, wherever Donaldson doesn’t go is expected to come calling on Bryant, which is why we’ve been paying extra close attention to those rumors all winter long.
To that end, a decision before the end of the week has always felt likely, and indeed, Jon Heyman reported that Donaldson’s answer was expected “soon” as recently as four hours ago. Heyman also guessed that it was going to be an NL East battle between the Nationals (who could be willing to offer the longest deal) and the Braves (Donaldson’s presumed first choice), but Ken Rosenthal just jumped in to add a little intrigue at the zero hour.
According to Rosenthal, there are only two teams so far willing to go to four years for Donaldson (widely assumed the necessary length to get a deal done), and while one of them is the Nationals as Heyman guessed, the other is actually the Twins: “Donaldson, 34, has multiple four-year offers, with both the Twins and Nationals believed to be at that level. If the Twins sign Donaldson, they will move Miguel Sanó from third to first base.”
The Twins have always been in the game, so to speak, but their pockets were never the deepest and their organization not the most attractive/expectedly competitive. Plus, they have Sanò. But according to Rosenthal, we can’t “count the Twins out” just yet and that’s good news for the Cubs, if they’re really dead-set on trading Kris Bryant right now.
As it stands, the Cubs most attractive trade partners for Bryant are the Braves and Dodgers with the Nationals and Phillies trailing some distance behind. The Rangers seem to have an interest in Bryant, as well, but don’t quite have the pieces to get something done. The Twins, meanwhile, have basically never been in the running for Bryant, which makes them the best possible landing spot for Bryant’s alternative, Donaldson.
If the Twins end up with Donaldson – and they are apparently one of the high bidders, so it’s at least possible – that could leave all five other teams bidding for Bryant (er, well, it depends what happens with Francisco Lindor, but that’s a story for another time*), putting the Cubs in the driver’s seat. Needless to say, the more bidders the better.
No matter which side of this you fall on, the more options for the Cubs to consider, the better. Stay tuned, because Donaldson’s decision has the feeling of something that might be resolved in the next 24 hours.
*For what it’s worth, Ken Rosenthal also mentioned that the Indians are asking teams for the best and final offers on Lindor – though that’s not necessarily because they’re going to move him. Normally, I’d call that bluff, but the Indians have genuinely seemed reluctant to trade Lindor this offseason. If they get their best and final offers, but refuse to make a deal, the market for Bryant could open up even further in that one of those teams (likely the Dodgers) wouldn’t have just made a huge trade for a 2-year-arbitration controlled superstar infielder.