For most of the offseason, the Kris Bryant Trade Saga has revolved almost entirely around two things, and the associated fallout therefrom: (1) Bryant’s service time grievance, and (2) the Atlanta Braves and their offer to free agent Josh Donaldson. And while that remains true to an extent – especially number one – the Braves and Donaldson aren’t really the only through line.
As other teams have risen and fallen in connection to Bryant – the Rangers, Phillies, Nationals, and now even the Twins (more on that later) – the Dodgers have remained hidden in plain sight, never actually falling out of the conversation, even as they’ve explored other superstar-caliber trade deals for Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor.
But with deals for Betts and Lindor appearing “doubtful,” “problematic,” and “longshots,” according to Ken Rosenthal, it’s fair to wonder if the Dodgers will stop hiding on the Cubs/Bryant and start getting a little louder, especially after the grievance is resolved (as soon as next week?).
In fact, Rosenthal seems to imply it plenty in his latest at The Athletic: “Bryant, with his ability to play third, first and both corner-outfield positions, seems ideal for the Dodgers, who relish such versatility. His right-handed bat also would fit the team’s predominantly left-handed lineup.”
Bryant is ideal for the Dodgers.
According to Rosenthal, the rub on Bryant – from the Dodgers perspective – is the “not inconsequential” trade demands, as well as an expectedly highish salary over the next two years. Indeed, the Cubs’ ask on Bryant has been described as “obscene,” among other things, and Bryant’s 3rd and 4th trip through arbitration are likely to earn him at least $40M over the next two years. It’s not like the Dodgers couldn’t handle those costs – dollars or prospects – but it is obviously a consideration.
There’s also the Josh Donaldson of it all. Donaldson is seven years older than Bryant and would be a much longer and bigger financial commitment, but he’d cost only money (and a draft pick) for L.A., compared to money and top prospects for Bryant.
Rosenthal seems to suggest the Dodgers’ unwillingness to go to four years for Donaldson, which may well be a requirement (especially since the Twins, Braves, and Nationals all reportedly went there), but it’s at least an open question – and that cuts both ways. So long as Donaldson thinks the Dodgers are a possibility, he’s going to wait to make his decision. But if the Dodgers are, themselves, waiting on the Cubs to make a deal or Kris Bryant? And the Cubs are waiting to hear back on the outcome of the most frustratingly long grievance in MLB history? Well, you can see how the machine gets gummed up.
In any case, I know the Bryant-Dodgers connection has felt less – let’s say – imminent all offseason long, but I’m not sure that’s entirely fair. Perhaps that’s natural when pretty much every rumor has come from only one writer, Ken Rosenthal (i.e. not the typical coalition of local and national writers from multiple publications). But when HE’S the guy, and he mentions it multiple times – once at the start of the offseason, once a few days ago, and again this morning – it’s pretty tough not to pay attention. Indeed, maybe there’s a reason a whole lot of other sources aren’t hearing about this connection? Usually, when things get really public from multiple sources, it’s because a deal is close or the rumor is being push out with some other agenda in mind. Maybe, if it was just an actually quiet set of conversations behind the scenes, this is what the reporting would look like?