We’ve reached the part of the Kris Bryant trade rumor cycle where various national folks are going to be weighing in, and it isn’t all going to justify discussion. With all appropriate love to national folks, there is some space-filling that won’t really afford the opportunity to dig TOO deeply into the merits of this or that, and sometimes that means saying silly things. Typically, I hear it, decide it’s not really worth your time to read about, and I move on.
I had to make an exception for this one, not only because it presents an opportunity to make a point about contracts, but also because of the names involved – it was too silly and fun not to share:
"If you did Bryant for Starlin Castro, does that line up?… It's not the same in terms of value, but is that the best you can do? It feels like it."@Mike_Ferrin | @Jim_Duquette pic.twitter.com/PGQzU3ASN5
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) November 30, 2020
Former Cubs fan favorite Starlin Castro has established himself as a league-average hitter since leaving the Cubs (.278/.315/.430, 98 wRC+), and he can play all over the infield capably (moreso second and third now than short, though).
He’s a perfectly fine player to have available on your team, especially if you were looking for some more contact. So I’m not gonna dump on Castro, who was once teammates with Bryant, and who subsequently gave him the tickle fight of his life.
But let’s get serious for a moment. Castro, who broke his right wrist in August, signed with the Nationals on a two-year, $12 million deal before last season, and $7 million of that is due to him in 2021. He’s on a free agent contract, and he’s in the second, more expensive year of that contract after suffering an injury and aging a year. If he were a free agent now, he would not get close to $7 million on a one-year deal. Maybe he gets a million or two?
In other words, if the Cubs were going to trade Bryant to the Nationals – as so many rumors keep hinting – it sure as heck wouldn’t be straight up for Castro. The Cubs would almost certainly rather just non-tender Bryant and save his full salary, rather than taking on Castro and his salary. That would make no sense, especially if, as the MLB Network crew says, that’s Bryant’s level of value.
It was a goof. A non-tender is a better return for Bryant than Castro right now. And the Cubs aren’t going to non-tender Bryant, so, no, Castro is not the market value for Bryant.
Now let me bail these guys out a little bit. For one thing, their main point was correct: Bryant does not have a lot of trade value right now, so concocting trades that work is challenging. Further, it isn’t that hard to imagine a Bryant-for-Castro trade working out *IF* Castro and his salary were basically just used as an offset to come to terms on a bigger deal. For example, Bryant for Prospects X and Y, and then also the Cubs take Castro and his contract back. The Nationals save some money, the Cubs can use Castro at third base if they want, and maybe the Cubs get better pieces than they would for Bryant straight up.
Bonus wildness, just for the lulz? When Spring Training starts, Starlin Castro will still be 30 years old. Kris Bryant will have just turned 29.