It’s easy to get caught up in certain story lines, which either create or reinforce or extend expectations during a team’s offseason. We think a thing makes sense, we hear some rumors that reinforce that thinking, and suddenly there’s an expectation that the thing will happen. Probably unfair, even if it’s understandable.
Thus, it’s probably good – even if obvious when you stop to think about it – that Jed Hoyer threw up a stop sign on NBC’s Cubs Talk podcast about Kris Bryant and trade considerations.
Although we generally do expect the Cubs would prefer to make a trade that nets them longer-term pieces (and offload’s Bryant’s salary), that doesn’t mean it will actually happen. And it doesn’t mean that it’s even a desirable outcome if the trade return is garbage.
To that end, Hoyer confirmed that, of course, it’s still possible Bryant is the Cubs’ third baseman on Opening Day. Indeed, the way he answered the question with an “absolutely” kinda hinted at a little exasperation at the idea that a trade is definitely going to happen.
“Absolutely [Bryant could be with the team on Opening Day]. I think [a trade has] been treated as a certainty, [but] listen, Kris is a great player — he’s a superstar player — that obviously didn’t have the year last year that he had hoped. But when you look at our offense, there were several other players that had similar struggles. What do we expect from him in ’21? We expect far more of the normal Kris Bryant-type performance than we got last year …. and so I don’t think it should be treated as a fait accompli that [a trade is] going to happen.”
There’s nothing else Hoyer could say to that question, but listening to it – and having listened to Hoyer speak a great many times over the years – I didn’t detect mere posturing. Instead, it felt like he believed he was giving the obvious, real answer: of course Bryant might be the Cubs’ third baseman to start the season, because – and here’s me making explicit something he didn’t say – you cannot assume a trade will be consummated. Trades just don’t always come together.
Where Hoyer’s answer does do at least a little revealing is that the Cubs can “afford” to keep Bryant to start the season, though I’d point out that them tendering him a contract last week already pretty much answered that question. At least things aren’t quite that dire.
As for a trade, though, we can still expect (as I do) that the Cubs would like to find a great trade fit. But if it doesn’t come, then the season starts with Bryant at third, and the Cubs reevaluate at midseason. None of this has played out in an ideal way, going back several years now (no extension, no trade at the height of value), but everyone kinda just has to proceed with the reality that has unfolded. That means a trade might not happen this offseason, an extension almost certainly won’t happen, and so you’d be left simply hoping a great player has a great season for your team. Gasp!