Yesterday, word came out of Colorado that the talks between the Cubs and Rockies about Nolan Arenado (in a swap involving Kris Bryant) are real. That squares with every other bit of public reporting out there, with the very public spat between Arenado and the Rockies, and with the no denials anywhere from anyone attached to the rumors.
The talks are happening. I think it’s just a reality at this point. That doesn’t mean a trade is going to happen, of course, because it’s still extremely complicated to put together a trade at this stage of the year that would satisfy both sides – in saving face, in future planning, in financial fit, etc. – and also because … there are always potentially other agendas at play.
An angle to these rumors to keep in mind, especially given how loud and undenied they have become:
Lots of #Rockies Nolan Arenado for #Cubs Kris Bryant rumors floating out there.
But one source told me that the Cubs might be creating media noise to make a better deal with #Phillies, #Nationals or #Braves
— Patrick Saunders (@psaundersdp) February 13, 2020
In other words, when you see big rumors like this circulating relatively widely without either side refuting it (either directly, or through sources in other media outlets), you do have to keep in mind the possibility that one or both of the teams simply want this rumor out there.
To Patrick Saunders’ point, which could be coming from a Rockies source, it’s at least possible that the Cubs have been in talks with other teams about Kris Bryant – on a more traditional type trade – and want to give the appearance that they have a much sexier alternative available if a monster offer doesn’t come together very soon.
To that point, though, I’m not sure why the Rockies wouldn’t just deny the talks if the Cubs were merely using them for public leverage – after all, it would be very easy for the Rockies to fall back on earlier comments about the talks having happened, they want to move forward with Arenado in 2020 so they can compete, yada yada. Instead, the Rockies are, like, aggressively no-commenting all things Arenado. It’s weird. And it tells me that, yes, they’d still very much like to trade Arenado this spring if they could get a deal that makes sense with a team to which Arenado would approve a trade.
Me? I think Saunders raises a very good point, and we do know that the Cubs are still having trade talks right now (about Bryant and/or others). But I don’t think the Arenado stuff is merely a smokescreen for those other conversations, especially given that we don’t have any reason to believe the Cubs are shopping Bryant to other teams right now. I just don’t know that the Cubs are out there trying to build back up the market for Bryant to get the best trade as soon as possible.
Instead, what has always made sense to me is that the Cubs:
- Would love to have Arenado (he’s already signed to a long-term contract, and he’s one of the most overall impactful players in the game (if you buy that he doesn’t fall off the map outside of Coors if he were full-time on a non-altitude club));
- Know that Arenado would approve a trade to them;
- Know that the Rockies might have very limited trade options given Arenado’s no-trade, contract, and unhappiness;
- Would be happy to acquire Arenado for a steal of a deal if the Rockies get desperate.
Can a trade be completed that somehow also gets the Cubs under the luxury tax this year (then they reset, and therefore would be more OK with going back over next year with Arenado in the fold)? We’ve done that math more than once, and the rub is that it requires the Rockies to throw in a whole lot of money, AND for the Cubs to send over some substantial contracts in the deal.
So, again, it makes sense to me that the Cubs are staying in touch with the Rockies, because there is a dream scenario where a trade could happen and put the Cubs in a better position for 2020 AND for post-2020. But it’s going to take the Rockies getting desperate, and Arenado being really aggressive in limiting his pool of suitors. Thus, maybe the Cubs are having their cake and eating it, too, when it comes to the rumors: let it be out there that they’re having talks and are very interested in Arenado (because those things are probably true), but they could also be engaging with other teams on Bryant, because they know a deal with the Rockies would have to be just perfect in order to actually make sense.
Position players report this weekend, so if the teams are going to avoid massive awkwardness, they’d want to do something – a trade, or a “it’s not happening for sure” – very soon.