The Questions Flying After the Braves' Ozuna Signing and Its Relationship to the Bryant Service Time Grievance

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The Questions Flying After the Braves’ Ozuna Signing and Its Relationship to the Bryant Service Time Grievance

Chicago Cubs

I can’t say anything about the Kris Bryant service time grievance that hasn’t already been said a dozen times over. That’s what happens when something persists for five years, and then becomes urgently important – and painfully drawn out – for the entirety of the offseason.

If you still feel like you need background, go here and here. I’m going to presume all knowledge of that stuff.

This morning, I wanted to muse on last night’s Marcell Ozuna signing, and the impact it could have on the Cubs, vis a vis the timing of the service time grievance decision. The signing caught me off guard a bit, so I needed a little time to process the implications before I fired off anything too stupid. Now, with the benefit of sleep, what I fire off will be only marginally less stupid.

Some questions …

Does the Ozuna signing mean that the Braves are definitely out on a Kris Bryant trade?

Well, you said “definitely,” so the answer is no! But let’s be very real: adding Bryant at this point would push the Braves close to the luxury tax threshold, something they have never seemed inclined to do. They could accommodate Bryant, of course (a deal that included Austin Riley would open third base right back up even after the Ozuna signing), and their lineup would be hilarious with him in there. But would they leave themselves absolutely no in-season flexibility? Would they really ball out so completely for 2020 that they send out Riley plus young pitching for Bryant when they already look very competitive? I just doubt it. I really doubt it.

I suppose you could argue that the Braves could send along someone like Ender Inciarte in the deal to offset a bit of the salary … but the question then is whether the Cubs would be willing to do that deal, knowing that dramatically reduces the payroll they are sending out. Maybe if they actually thought they could reclaim Inciarte a bit as a quality 4th outfielder, and maybe if taking him added value to the package of prospects the Cubs were getting.

All in all, though, it feels like I’m stretching a bit to try to keep the Braves involved when it’s far more likely that they’re out.

So does the Ozuna signing mean the Braves already knew they weren’t going to acquire Bryant? 

Or maybe just that they didn’t want to keep waiting? You have to keep in mind, maybe the Braves wanted both guys, but Ozuna was getting pressure elsewhere, and he then said, hey, if you want me on this one-year deal, it’s this week or never. And, at that point, the Braves just decided to go with the lesser player who costs only money and a fourth-round draft pick, rather than wait for a guy they might not actually even acquire.

OK, but maybe the Braves were never seriously in on Bryant from the get-go, right?

Yeah, that’s definitely possible. It’s possible that, as it relates to the Cubs’ market for Bryant, all the talk about Josh Donaldson was completely illusory. And if that’s true, then any connection here to Ozuna is also totally imagined. That said, given the obvious fit – and how the Braves wound up spending their money – it’s pretty absurd to suggest they never would have wanted Bryant.

They just weren’t going to trade for him until the service time grievance is decided?

Right. Nobody is. We can’t even *truly* know whether the price tag the Cubs are asking is reasonable or meet-able until the service time grievance is decided. All that’s happening, likely, is a whole lot of hypotheticals being tossed around behind the scenes, with possible trade partners being squeezed by the timeline – they have other stuff to accomplish, too!

So the Cubs have now definitely been totally screwed by the grievance timeline, yes? 

Probably somewhat screwed (also somewhat screwed by their own process that led to such a dire need to shop Bryant), particularly if the Ozuna timing took the Braves out of the market and they were otherwise in it. Again, I’m not certain we can say that with 100% confidence until everything plays out and – hopefully – we learn a little more about what other interested parties were doing at the time. I do think we know with near 100% confidence at this point what the Cubs have been trying to do. But it takes two teams to trade.

You’ll note that Mookie Betts hasn’t been traded yet. Francisco Lindor hasn’t been traded. Nolan Arenado hasn’t been traded. Maybe the market just hasn’t been primed for major trades yet anyway.

Or maybe everyone knows that Bryant is the most likely major piece to be traded, so there is a lot of waiting going on. 

Sure.

And teams, like free agents, won’t wait forever.

Correct.

So are we nervous about Nick Castellanos now? 

Yup. With his and Ozuna’s markets clearly intertwined, and now with Ozuna having signed, Castellanos is the clear next best corner outfielder on the free agent market, and probably the only one in whom the Cubs would have interest. As we’ve long discussed, there’s mutual interest there, but the only way a return works is if the Cubs (1) clear salary, and (2) figure out a way, positionally, to best accommodate Castellanos.

But Castellanos can’t keep waiting on the Cubs, if he has been. And if the Cubs are waiting on the service time grievance to move Bryant, then you’re asking Castellanos to wait on a completely unknown timeline. If that’s where we are right now, then it’s just not fair to Castellanos to ask him to forgo a deal he likes elsewhere to see if the Cubs can get a timely grievance decision *AND THEN* pull off the other moves necessary to add him.

I am now on high alert for Castellanos to sign soon with the Rangers or Cardinals or some surprise team that isn’t the Cubs. It feels awful.

Do you need a hug?

Yes. And a White Claw. And a g**d*** decision in the service time grievance case. TODAY. RIGHT NOW. DECIDE ITTTTTTTTT!



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.