When pretty much everyone knows a player is firmly on the trade block, you’re going to see a boatload of speculation and evaluation and what-have-you, as we saw last year on Kris Bryant. For me, I like to see it all – well, from informed and thoughtful sources, anyway – not because it will necessarily scratch that rumor itch in our brain, but instead because it gets us outside our bubble of thought. I know what *I* think about Bryant’s trade value, about what makes sense for the Cubs, about what’s proper for other teams, and about what point the Cubs should just hang onto Bryant. But it’s useful to see what other folks – folks who aren’t so cemented into this Cubs fan world – are thinking about this topic.
To that end, and with that limited goal in mind, MLB.com actually put out a perfect article to read. They got seven writers together who cover seven plausible trade partners on a Bryant deal, and then had each of them come up with, and evaluate, a possible trade. We might agree or disagree with any or all of their takes, but the point is just to get the outside perspective, which is going to be at least partially informed by the background knowledge that these writers have of their organizations’ processes and thinking.
The teams discussed are the Blue Jays, Braves, Dodgers, Mets, Nationals, Rangers, and Red Sox. All have either been attached to Bryant last year or this year, though I have a hard time seeing how the Rangers this year make sense. In any case, what’s most interesting to me about the piece in the aggregate is how Cubs-friendly the trade proposals seem to be. To be sure, there are many that would make you unhappy and you wouldn’t want to see the Cubs pull the trigger, but that’s more a product of Bryant’s seriously diminished trade value in this market than anything else. The fact that most of these offers suggest real, meaningful value in exchange for Bryant is kinda surprising to me. Maybe encouraging?
I don’t want to just copy and paste all the trade ideas in here, so head over to see them all, as well as the thinking (for many, there’s a trade proposed, but then some rationale on why that team wouldn’t actually do it.
A couple that I want to share for context on what I’m talking about with respect to “actual value,” given that they are teams we’ve discussed before and they kinda fit the mold on the type of deal we might expect:
Nationals get: 3B/OF Kris Bryant
Braves get: 3B/OF Kris Bryant
Cubs get: LHP Kyle Muller (Braves’ No. 6 prospect), LHP Sean Newcomb, 3B Austin Riley
On the Nationals, it’s funny that the MLB crew includes Castro as a salary off-set, something we recently discussed as the only way it would make sense for the Cubs to get Castro back. But are three of the Nationals’ lesser pitching prospects enough to make the deal worthwhile? You have to remember, the Nationals have no top 100 types, and every prospect in the system after the top two come with either really limited upside or serious warts or both.
… but that’s probably realistic in a Bryant trade. I just don’t see the Cubs getting enormous, impact value for a single year of Bryant at $20ish million in this environment, coming off the year that he had, and the downward/injury trend we’ve seen. Either you take a deal like that, or you just keep Bryant.
On the flip side, that Braves deal, man, the Cubs would TRIP OVER THEMSELVES to accept it. Consider that Riley, alone, is the type of post-hype guy that I’m thinking the Cubs could realistically target in a deal like this. An absolute monster of a minor league hitter, there are big questions about whether Riley will be able to make enough contact to take advantage of his huge power (in 2020, he swapped power for contact, brought down the strikeout rate and also his power, and he was basically the same overall value of hitter as he was in 2019 (10-15% below league average). But, again, you’re not going to get multiple years of a sure-thing for Bryant, so you take your chance.
And then to get a legit interesting pitching prospect in Muller included? And a rebound pitching candidate in Newcomb?
That one is sufficiently a no-brainer that I’d be shocked if it was ever even close to on the table.
So if that strikes you as not a great trade for Bryant, I have to tell you, sadly, that you must recalibrate your expectations. If you don’t see that Braves deal as a dead-bang no-brainer, then you fall into the “just don’t trade Bryant at all” camp. Hey, that’s fine! You’re a fan! You don’t have to want your team to trade away players you like!
For me, I’m just trying to proceed realistically about the financial situation, and the Cubs’ desire for a heavy reset. I think they are very much trying to move Bryant for the best possible deal, and in that situation, deals like the proposed Nationals one seem realistic (sigh), and deals like the proposed Braves one seem like a dream.