Blue Jays beat writer Scott Mitchell reported this weekend that *at some point* the Cubs and Blue Jays had talked about Kris Bryant and Kyle Hendricks. I tried my best to give that context, since of course the Blue Jays would have interest there, because it could be an obvious 2-for-1 fit for them. That doesn’t mean trade talks were serious, or ongoing, or had much of a chance of going anywhere.
Still, the report caused a bit of a stir, and Mitchell wanted to underscore what he was and was not saying. It was interesting, though, that in confirming and clarifying what he was reporting, he took the additional step of adding another timeline:
Accurate. It’s also a deal I believe that could be revisited in February. That’s one scenario that could be still in play. That’s the report.
— Scott Mitchell (@ScottyMitchTSN) January 24, 2021
Ah, but that was before the Blue Jays signed Marcus Semien to a one-year, $18 million deal last night. Surely that ends things, at least with respect to Bryant?
Wouldn’t necessarily rule out another addition at 3B so don’t go making out lineups just yet.
Biggio can still play almost everyday in a super-utility role.#BlueJays
— Scott Mitchell (@ScottyMitchTSN) January 26, 2021
I’d be surprised if the Blue Jays relegated Cavan Biggio to a pure utility role, but I suppose if they have the money to deploy and feel like they really want to ball out in 2021, so be it. We’ve seen teams aggressively add and create extreme quality depth before. There’s also a question of just how much more the Blue Jays can add in salary, but Mitchell suggests there’s flexibility there to go up another $10+ million, so depending on what the return looked like (i.e., salary going back the other way), and/or depending on whether Jays ownership would go even higher for the right finishing touch, maybe the payroll consideration isn’t really the thing either.
So then, setting the fit questions post-Semien aside for a moment, why would this possibly come back up in February? Presumably because that’s when even more free agent options would be off the board (Justin Turner at third base, for example?), and the Blue Jays may wind up deciding they want to push for yet another big move like this. As we’ve seen in years past, big moves happen not infrequently in the first two weeks of February. But it tends to be the case that major trades are usually cut off once players arrive for Spring Training for a variety of pragmatic, logistical, and budgetary reasons. That’s not to say you can’t pull off a major swap during Spring Training, it’s just exceedingly rare.
That is all to say, for this rumor – and the many others involving Cubs players heading out the door – it’s fair to watch closely up and into February.
Ultimately, I stand by what I said in response to the initial report:
Would the Cubs actually part with the two in the same deal? Well, if you could set aside the optics, yeah, we know they’re open to moving Bryant, and the Yu Darvish deal strongly suggests they’d be open to moving Hendricks, too, if the return was right. I honestly don’t know that the Cubs are concerned at this point about obliterating their chances of competing in 2021, despite what they might say. I think long-term is now firmly the higher priority.
But, even still, it’s just hard for me to see the Cubs actually dealing two faces of the franchise in the same trade, the return for which is absolutely would contemplate enough of a financial element that some people would shred it. The prospect/player return to the Cubs would have to be almost unthinkably large, and while the Blue Jays have the pieces to do it, I don’t know that they’re actually going to want to trade any of the types I’m referencing.
I think the Blue Jays make sense for Bryant, specifically, as we’ve discussed before (and as there have been some rumors). But a paired deal with Hendricks? I could see the Blue Jays asking, but I have a hard time seeing them willing to meet the actual price the Cubs would need to receive in order to justify such a combo deal. Also, while Bryant is a free agent after this year and is not likely coming back, Hendricks is under control for up to four more years. If the Cubs are hoping for a quicker turnaround than several years of rebuilding, they’re gonna, uh, need quality starting pitching like Hendricks in 2022+.
To that point, let me add here: if the real thing is that the Blue Jays just want to add a good starting pitcher so that they don’t squander their offensive unit in 2021, then you’d have to think Zach Davies would be at least as plausible a target as Hendricks (who, again, means a lot to the Cubs after 2021, when Davies would be a free agent). Just thinking out loud.