We’ve been talking for a couple weeks now about how the big names on the trade market this offseason have all stayed put so far, even after the weight of free agency has been settled.
For the Cubs and Kris Bryant, the reason is obvious: his service time grievance has still not been decided. For the Indians and Francisco Lindor, it seems they were never all that serious about moving him before the Trade Deadline. For the Rockies and Nolan Arenado, well, it’s complicated.
But what about the Red Sox and Mookie Betts? With just one year left of team control, with Betts reportedly having already rejected extension talks, and with the Red Sox very much angling to get under the luxury tax, a Betts trade at one time seemed obvious. Yet rumors on his front have been mostly mum for months.
So here’s something, at least, and it winds up connecting to the Cubs (bear with me):
The Padres and Red Sox have discussed a potential trade that would bring Mookie Betts to San Diego, sources tell The Athletic: https://t.co/Mn5be5SwlM
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) January 24, 2020
Although Lin is quick to caution – as in most of these situations – that a trade is “unlikely,” the talk has been serious enough to involve names. Specifically, the Padres would acquire Betts in exchange for prospects and Wil Myers, whose contract they are looking to unload. The thinking is not so much that the Red Sox would want Myers, but it would be a way for them to still shave salary while getting a quality return for a single year of Betts.
What’s interesting about that possible swap, and the article, is that Kris Bryant also comes in for a mention, though not in the same context or character as Betts: “This offseason, general manager A.J. Preller has explored possible trades for some of the sport’s bigger names, including Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant and Whit Merrifield.”
It’s a bit of a generic mention – kind of a blanket “they want to do something!” mention in an article about Betts – but this isn’t the first time we’ve heard Bryant connected to the Padres, who’d look at him as more of a corner outfielder (with Manny Machado sticking at third base). Would the Cubs be interested in a swap that nets them prospects if they are taking on Myers in the deal?
That’s what I do find a little intriguing. Let’s explore.
You *mostly* have to consider Myers dead money, where a team is taking him on so they can add more prospects. On that consideration, here’s how the math works: you’re taking on $61 million in actual salary burden over the next three years, but you get it in the form of a deal that has a $13.8 million AAV for luxury tax purposes. So if the Cubs sent out Bryant and got back Myers, despite Myers actually making more money than Bryant, it would be a $5 million drop in payroll for luxury tax purposes in 2020.
Of course, that $5 million drop – even if it were the difference between being over the luxury tax and under – is not worth swapping Bryant, the player, for Myers, the player, let alone taking on a financial burden three times the size. But that’s why the deal would include considerable young talent going back the Cubs’ way (and also possibly cash, which would further reduce the AAV).
To be crystal clear, after saying all that money stuff and before saying the next thing, the piece of utmost importance in any Bryant trade, if the Cubs make one, is the young talent they’re getting back for the long-term. That’s the focus. The rest is all just “oh, yeah, that matters, too.”
So, we said the financial stuff could be a benefit to the Cubs even if you considered Myers mostly dead money … but what if he’s not totally dead money?
Obviously, Myers has fallen way off in recent years, and the strikeout rate exploded last year:
But as you can see, even falling way off, and even with the monstrous strikeout rate, Myers was still a nearly league-average hitter, and he played serviceable defense all over the outfield. Is he a guy you’d affirmatively seek to acquire? Nope. But is he a guy that you might wonder if there’s something that can be fixed, given the talent? Yup.
And even if you totally disregard any reclamation value, how about this: right now, the Cubs’ primary outfielders are two lefties with big splits and a switch hitter who has yet to hit lefties so far in his career. To be sure, Kyle Schwarber continues to improve against lefties, and Ian Happ could get much better. But Jason Heyward, for all he does well, has simply never hit lefties well. It’s time he sits down more often against them.
So if you wanted to sit Heyward more often against lefties, and also wanted to sometimes give the other outfielders a break depending on the match-ups, wouldn’t you really want to add a righty bat to the mix who could play all over the outfield? Maybe Albert Almora can be that guy, but we have to be honest: for more than a year, he’s been one of the worst hitters in baseball, even when facing lefties.
Well guess what? Myers crushed lefties last year: .233/.365/.512, 130 wRC+. And the career rate against lefties is really good, too: .245/.348/.431, 112 wRC+.
So, then, if you’re consider the money mostly dead anyway, doesn’t Myers suddenly look like a very good 4th/5th outfielder fit for the Cubs?
All I’m saying: if the Padres were interested in Bryant, but would include a huge prospect package only if the Cubs also took Myers, well, they are a pretty well-fitting team to actually get some value out of Myers.
Might be worth a phone call. (Again, keeping in mind that the main point here is to explore the Padres’ impressive collection of prospects and young players!)