For the most part, it’s a status quo situation on any Kris Bryant trade discussion until his service time grievance is decided. Sure, it was always possible the Cubs had worked up alternative trade scenarios for if Bryant winds up with two years left before free agency or one year left, but even if that’s the case, we’re not really going to get any kind of serious updates until the decision is handed down.
So we wait.
But that doesn’t mean the Cubs haven’t engaged in trade conversations in advance of the decision to get the lay of the land, and, indeed, we’re pretty confident they have.
On that front, Dave Kaplan offers an update from his conversations with other execs, and the picture you get? The Cubs’ asking price on Bryant (and Willson Contreras) has been sky high.
The Cubs have been slow to make moves this offseason. @thekapman talked to a former MLB general manager and other high ranking baseball executives to find out why. They didn't hold back in their answers:https://t.co/GZgU5xNccE
— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) January 5, 2020
Phrases used about the asking prices? “A ton.” “A joke.” “Obscene.”
That’s probably not surprising, as the Cubs know they have to knock these kinds of trade(s) out of the park if they’re going to successfully navigate in 2020 and 2021 without having to completely tear it all down and rebuild. But what you find in reading that article is the pervasively negative sentiment about Bryant’s value, relative to an “obscene” asking price. There’s a whole lot in there about how he’s just not worth it. Read it for yourself, and consider how much you buy.
One part I don’t really buy? The idea that Bryant – who turned 28 yesterday – has significantly regressed offensively. He was down in 2018 because of the shoulder injury, and no one can dispute that on the numbers. But last year, virtually every result and peripheral you can review was right in line with his career norms, even from before 2018. I think any argument that Bryant is much worse offensively now (in terms of what you’d project for 2020 and 2021) than he was a couple years ago is a stretch.
This isn’t the first time this offseason reports and quotes and whathaveyou have come out about Bryant suddenly having a bunch of flaws, and we took a deeper look here:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 12, 2019
Don’t get me wrong: I do think some fans have an unrealistic idea of what two years of Bryant, at arbitration prices, could return in trade. But I simply don’t buy that there aren’t a plenty of contenders out there that would love to have Bryant on their team for the next two years, believing that he would be a key offensive contributor in the middle of the lineup. And that impact, for only two reasonable years of salary (as opposed to having to sign a guy like him to a 6+ year, $200+ million deal) has a great deal of trade value.
As for the Cubs’ approach right now, they will keep the asking price very high, especially after Josh Donaldson signs, and after Bryant’s grievance is decided. As I’ve said before, however, they need to be very serious about entertaining realistic trade offers right now, because kicking the can to the Trade Deadline is not a particularly compelling approach for a variety of reasons.
(This is why trading superstar-caliber players is tough – finding that agreement level on value is not easy. So if the Cubs pinned their entire offseason approach on this particular deal? Well, good luck. Gotta get it right. No pressure.)