Substantially Paying Down Kris Bryant's Contract in Trade? That's a "Non-Starter" for the Cubs

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Substantially Paying Down Kris Bryant’s Contract in Trade? That’s a “Non-Starter” for the Cubs

Chicago Cubs

You didn’t think today would be about only Yu Darvish, did you? Nestled at the end of Bruce Levine’s update to those on-going trade discussions with the Padres is a notable development in the Kris Bryant trade saga. Yeah. Still a thing.

According to Levine, the Cubs have had trade discussions about Kris Bryant this offseason and are very open to moving him if offered a strong package, which, no surprises there. Just further confirmation of what we already know.

The new part comes next:

In past trade discussions, opposing teams have asked the Cubs about the possibility of paying around half of Bryant’s projected $19-million salary for 2021. That has been a non-starter for the Cubs, sources said.

Assuming this is true, I can read it one of two ways. And while they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive, I think you’ll see how one is slightly more forgiving of the Cubs than the other. Do with them what you will.

On the one hand, the Cubs could simply be holding to their guns on the value of Kris Bryant, which would be a good thing. Jed Hoyer’s club doesn’t NEED to pay down any of Bryant’s contract, because he’s a great player and $19 million isn’t that much money to pay him in 2021, pandemic or not. If you want him, you’ll have to pay to get him … and pay his salary, as well. This “early” in the offseason, you want the Cubs’ asking price to be at its highest. If the Cubs keep Bryant, that’s not exactly a terrible scenario at this point, given the realities of the market.

On the other hand, if the Cubs were trying to actually get a substantial trade return, I certainly hope the Cubs would be WILLING to pay down as much of Bryant’s contract as it would take. Trading Bryant shouldn’t primarily be about how much money you can save. But, well, this rumor sure makes it seem like the money matters to them a whole lot.

So you see, these aren’t mutually exclusive ideas, but dollars-to-donuts the Cubs aren’t actually holding firm on his contract *solely* for the sake of preserving leverage/improving the return. And that’s a shame. If the Cubs are going to move on from someone like Bryant, they must do what they can to ensure it’s not ONLY for some extra dollars over one freakin’ season.

Because, I mean, remember: they’ve already non-tendered Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr., have multiple free agents rolling off the books, and are possibly about to trade Yu Darvish and maybe even Victor Caratini. How can you possibly justify NOT paying whatever it takes to ensure the best return for Bryant, especially when that cost might just be $9-10 million over one year (or about what they gained by cutting Schwarber)?

As a fan, I’m coming to terms with the prioritization of future competitiveness over 2021 competitiveness, but the Cubs have to hold up their end of the bargain, too. If you’re gonna focus on 2022+, then act like it. Unfortunately, saving money on Bryant’s deal and potentially weakening the return in the process is MORE about 2021 than the future. And that’s where they lose me.

This is just one report – and, again, it could be partially about leverage – but I sure hope any Bryant trade is not about money. Maybe we can tell ourselves that it’s just that the Cubs don’t want to eat HALF of the salary, but would eat SOME of the salary? Shrug. Whatever. I’m just saying: if you’re trading Kris Bryant at this point, you should do what you can to maximize the return if the other team is interested in having you do it!



Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami