As expected, the aftermath of the Mookie Betts trade – well, the proposed Mookie Betts trade – has been full of rumors and speculation about the next major star to be traded, Kris Bryant. Although the Cubs reportedly started getting offers (again?) this week, I remain of the mind that a trade is extremely unlikely at this point (and arguably not desirable at this point, either).
But the rumors and the conversation is out there, so I’ll share items with you, Bullet-style. It’s on our radar, but, to be clear, it’s not something we’re tracking because it’s likely to happen. We’re tracking it closely because of how ground-shaking it would be if it DID happen, and of course it’s still possible.
- In Philadelphia, you get the very strong sense in anything you read that the media and the fans really want the Phillies to acquire Bryant. They feel like it’s a good time to push, they like the idea of pairing Bryant with Bryce Harper, and they’re eager for ownership to spend over the luxury tax. I think I get it after a couple very disappointing years (that did come with several major financial commitments, just saying). But you also get the sense that they want to acquire Bryant without it being a painful trade.
- For example, Scott Lauber writes about how the Phillies would be much better with Bryant and there’s an opportunity to win in the NL East … but they should not trade top pitching prospect Spencer Howard. The 23-year-old righty dominated at High-A and AA last year, his second full season after being a 2017 second rounder. Howard rates as around the 30th best prospect in baseball, depending on your preferred list, and is expected to be a big league contributor in the rotation as soon as the second half of this year. He’s a stud. And he is, of course, exactly the kind of guy the Cubs would want in a deal involving Bryant.
- Joe Giglio also says the Phillies should go get Bryant, but also says that Howard should be off-limits. Giglio also takes 25-year-old utility man Scott Kingery off the table because of his upside and team-friendly contract. Ultimately, the issue is that the Phillies need young pitching as much as the Cubs do. It’s a tough fit.
- In any case, you’re left with a Phillies deal that would have top third base prospect Alec Bohm as the center piece. Like Howard, Bohm ranks right around 30th on the prospect lists, and the 2018 third overall pick is highly likely to be a quality big league hitter. But the 23-year-old comes with questions about whether he’ll have to move across the diamond to first base, at which point his value obviously takes a huge hit. To be quite clear, you’d love to have Bohm in your system, because he could be a stud at the plate. But a Bohm AND Howard package looks a heckuva lot better than a package of lesser prospects, bundled with Bohm, and then maybe a fringey big league arm thrown in. Ultimately, a package that includes both Bohm and Howard strikes me as appropriate for Bryant’s value, even if I could see the Phillies – in their situation – unwilling to go to that level.
- Although not necessarily directly related, Dave Kaplan reports – like he did earlier in the offseason – that Bryant’s perceived value just hasn’t been that high in trade talks. Some teams do not see Bryant worth what fans think he is, or what the Cubs have been asking. Is that still just negotiating tactics? Or is it really a reflection – as a hypothetical example – that the Cubs are drawing the line at something like Bohm+Howard, and the Phillies think that’s crazy? In general, I think the stuff poo-poo’ing Bryant’s value has been way overstated, but it’s also a reality that we don’t know what the Cubs have been seeking. Maybe they are going way over the top.
- Jon Morosi was on The Score yesterday afternoon, and he expressed a general believe that a Bryant trade is unlikely this close to Spring Training.
- Bruce Levine was on The Score this morning, and you kinda got that same sense. He left things open because there’s still a lot of time before Opening Day (he does not see the “distraction” thing being a problem), but he also underscored that there aren’t many teams that can add $18.6 million to their books in February, regardless of the trade return (which would be more than Mookie Betts, thanks to the two years of control, despite Betts being the better player).
- That said, Levine believes it is borderline inevitable that Bryant will not begin his walk season (2021) as a member of the Cubs.