An inevitable outgrowth from the Kris Bryant service time grievance decision – he remains under team control for two more seasons – is that the rumors and speculation about trade bits were going to kick up immediately.
We got into the Nolan Arenado stuff earlier today, but there were a whole lot of other things attendant to Bryant trade rumors that shook loose today. Whether it is actually the case that teams were not chatting up the Cubs much until the decision came out, or whether it’s just that the decision offered a checkpoint for the purveyors of rumors to say some things, it doesn’t really matter for our external purposes. The point is, there are things to discuss …
- Just in case there was any question, Jeff Passan – who broke the news of the arbitrator’s decision – confirms that, yes, the Cubs have been having those hypothetical trade talks about Bryant behind the scenes for “most of the offseason,” according to sources. So there’s little reason to believe that’s going to change now. In fact, it will almost certainly accelerate as the Cubs are ideally going to want to commit to a lane before Spring Training: either Bryant is out and the team is reshaped in a very fundamental way, or they’re carrying him at least to the Trade Deadline in the hopes that they compete (and if not, reexamine his market at that time).
- Ah, remember back when it seemed like the Rangers were the most aggressive team on Kris Bryant, but we concluded they were a pretty tough trade fit, since we don’t see the pieces there to entice the Cubs into actually sending Bryant to the Rangers? Well, that’s still true, but they’re back:
Yes…Cubs 3B Kris Bryant lost his grievance. Two years to go before he can be a free agent….yes, the Rangers are still looking for another big bat….yes, Todd Frazier said he us willing to play first base if needed….yes, Jon Daniels is pursuing all trade options…
— TR Sullivan (@Sullivan_Ranger) January 29, 2020
- What about an attractive trade partner like the Braves? After they signed Marcell Ozuna, it kinda felt like their urgency to go after Bryant was going to drop precipitously. That’s still very possible. Maybe probable. But on his ESPN 1000 hit today, Jesse Rogers reported that he hears privately, despite the public reports, that the Braves are NOT out on Bryant. Keep in mind, the signing of Ozuna didn’t take away a spot for Bryant if the Braves really wanted to go balls out on their lineup. They could simply bring in Bryant to play third base, and send out – for example – youngster Austin Riley, who is otherwise set to play third base after being displaced by Ozuna.
- Bruce Levine writes about the Bryant trade possibilities, and he also includes the Braves. From Levine’s perspective, the Braves might want to include Ender Inciarte in any deal for Bryant to help the Braves offset what is already going to be a (for them) monstrous payroll. We’ve talked about Inciarte before, and as far as salary dumps go, you could do a lot worse. He’s owed $16.4 million over the next two years (including an option buyout), but his AAV for luxury tax purposes is just $6 million. He was all kinds of injured last year, but he’s consistently very good defensively, runs well, and hits just under league average. Would you sign him to his current deal? Nah. Would you take him as a salary dump if it meant getting a much more significant prospect return? Of course. The Cubs could use him as a 4th/5th outfielder anyway.
- Levine also mentions familiar faces as possible suitors: Dodgers, Phillies, Nationals.
- A miscellaneous thought as Padres and Dodgers fans are breathlessly awaiting updates on the Mookie Betts rumors: it’s good that the Cubs got this Bryant decision in before Betts was dealt just in case the Padres and Dodgers wanted to make a stronger offer for Bryant as an alternative to Betts. At least now, those conversations can be had before Betts is dealt. That’s all I’m saying.
- (Relatedly, Jon Heyman reports that the Red Sox seem “more serious than ever” about dealing Betts. So stay tuned.)
- Lastly, just to button up that any trade talks that happen aren’t about bitterness on either side:
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) January 29, 2020