One of the nice things about the very early Spring reveal that Kris Bryant would be the Cubs’ new leadoff hitter is that it presented a tangible, forward-looking thing that we – as fans – could latch onto to stop thinking about trade rumors.
Whether you were on board with shopping Bryant or not, we’ve reached the point where it is so unlikely a deal is made that you just want to stop thinking about it. Or at least I did. So I was glad to have this concept that was about Bryant and the regular season that I could focus on instead.
It helped, too, that Bryant talked with the front office, and came away feeling like he was going to be a Cub on Opening Day. He even went further and said he thinks he sticks with the Cubs all season, which, as Jed Hoyer pointed out, is actually Bryant showing a lot of faith in his teammates:
Why is Kris Bryant so confident he will be a Cub all season? Will baseball ops get more money for July 31? How GM Jed Hoyer views the trade deadline this year: https://t.co/wlDyLppNTO
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) February 21, 2020
“I think that speaks to confidence in the team,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer told Patrick Mooney about Bryant sticking around. “We have a really good group and he’s going to be a huge part of it. Listen, his frame of mind has been fantastic. I give him a lot of credit for that. He was in trade rumors this winter. He had the grievance, which people were commenting on all the time. That couldn’t have been that easy. For him to come into camp in that frame of mind, it really says a lot about him.”
Do you catch the implication in there, though? That if the Cubs don’t get out to a good start this year, then Bryant is very unlikely to still be with the team after the July 31 Trade Deadline.
Here’s hoping that the Cubs blow the doors off the thing in the early part of the season, making any question about trying to get back under the luxury tax totally moot (even if it’ll still piss me off that the Cubs did precious little to ADD to the team in the offseason). And if the Cubs meander – even if they’re still kinda in contention, but not dominating – then I think the trade talks come back up in June.
Until then, a little added background context for the trade talks this offseason, and the trade/extension rumors to come:
- Gordon Wittenmyer writes about Bryant’s value from Scott Boras’s perspective, and the super agent is already starting to blitz the media with the idea that Bryant is uniquely versatile – in the lineup and in the field – for a guy who hits as well as he does. Two years out from free agency, and the sales pitch is on. I’m not saying that doesn’t mean Bryant and the Cubs could engage in extension talks, but it is a reminder that Bryant remains more likely than not to hit free agency – and that means, if the Cubs are out of it at midseason this year, they’re seriously going to talk trades.
- As for the biggest trade rumor of the late offseason, Jesse Rogers says that the Cubs and Rockies never got THAT close to swapping Bryant and Nolan Arenado, but it did reach the point where ownership was talking to each other, presumably because of the massive contract implications.
Interesting note on the Arenado-Bryant trade rumor talks from @ESPNChiCubs. Tells me that although a deal may not have gotten close, the talks were clearly quite serious, given massive contract implications. https://t.co/EnWioEXHRH pic.twitter.com/xNABsjCYSk
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) February 21, 2020
- I would say it’s going to be fair to keep Arenado on your radar as we approach midseason, because if the Rockies look to trade him, the Cubs are probably going to have interest again, if they can coordinate the move with payroll/competitiveness/etc. The Cubs may still be thinking, hey, if we can’t lock up Bryant for long-term, maybe we can acquire Arenado to accomplish the same thing. (And now I start doing the ABSOLUTELY INSANE thing and dream about the Cubs adding Arenado in July but hanging onto Bryant because they’re way up in the Central and just want to ball out.)
- This is exactly where the Cubs should have kept their demands with respect to the Nationals, which is confirmation that the Cubs weren’t going to trade Bryant short of getting a truly significant return:
Nats are giving top prospect Carter Kieboom a shot to replace a Rendon at 3B. No current talks on Bryant. Cubs wanted either Robles or some combo of RHP Rutledge, SS Garcia and Kieboom. Not an unreasonable ask but considering price (tax) and potential ultimately decided no.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 20, 2020
- Although you get more time with a player by acquiring him in the offseason, we often see that price tags don’t actually go down at the deadline, because the market is a lot hotter (i.e., teams acquiring a guy are ALREADY in a playoff race, so they know for sure they’re going to get max value from their additions – thus, even though it’s less time from the player, they’re willing to pay just about as much). I would expect, if Bryant hits the trade block in June and July, the price tag will remain very high.