Although many of the rumors apparently died on the vine back in early January, the Mets are once again in our collective psyche, as they apparently weigh a trade with the Cubs for Kris Bryant.
The rumors first popped back onto our radar a couple days ago, when multiple Mets reporters and bloggers started hearing (and sharing) some background noise regarding the Mets and a trade after missing out on Trevor Bauer. I think a lot of us wondered whether their minor involvement in a three-way deal with the Red Sox and Royals was a connective tissue to something bigger, but that no longer seems to be the case.
Yesterday, Andy Martino (SNY) confirmed that the talks between the Mets and Cubs were no longer dead. And the story gained some steam when the Mets alternative interest in A’s third baseman Matt Chapman hit the wire. Evidently, New York wants a big third baseman for 2021, and clearly they’re willing to explore a significant trade to get one. And unfortunately, that means we’re not done yet.
Martino has since added some detail, with enough specificity to get my attention (emphasis mine):
According to league sources, the Bryant talks have resumed since.
It’s unclear how likely a trade is. There have long been mixed indications. SNY’s Jim Duquette has recently reported that Chicago is more likely to hold on to Bryant until the July 31 trade deadline unless they were blown away by an offer.
We have consistently heard that the Mets like the years of team control remaining on J.D. Davis, especially after trading two young infielders, Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez. Having said that, they’ve never considered Davis completely untouchable in the right situation. The Cubs have previously expressed interest in trading for Davis.
When names from the other team start being put out there, it’s time to pay closer attention. And according to Martino, third baseman J.D. Davis is someone the Cubs have had interest in before.
Davis, 27, is still pretty young, is making just $2.1 million this season, and comes with four more years of team control, including 2021. He also plays third base and the outfield (albeit quite poorly), so he could reasonably be expected to fill the positional vacancy left by Bryant. For all those reasons, sure, I could buy that he’d be a target for the Cubs. That sort of addition would still allow them to save some near-term cash, but also still compete in 2021 *and* potentially shorten up the turnaround time on this rebuild/retool/whatever.
After all, the guy can probably hit:
I don’t want to get too far down the rabbit hole, but the exit velocities, hard-hit rates, and expected production according to Statcast are all pretty strong for Davis. He had an issue with his launch angle last season, but he also walked a lot more and still smacked the ball all over the field. Given his age and offensive trajectory, I am genuinely interested in Davis.
Well, his bat.
But don’t sleep on that defense.
Davis’ defense rates brutally at both third base and in the outfield, albeit in small samples. But with no guarantee that the universal DH is coming or that there might be an opening at, say, first base in the near future (there better not be!), Davis’s value is certainly limited.
And once more, he doesn’t quite fit the model of the sort of return for Bryant we were expecting at various points in the offseason (package of prospects? post-hype sleeper star?). The age, salary, and control all help (he’s kinda like a post-hype guy in that respect), and maybe the Cubs feel they can get more out of his glove (or that he hasn’t had a big enough sample to show what he can do on the field), but it is odd. Moreover, even as the Mets could certainly part with Davis if they were adding Bryant (they already have a surplus of bats at other spots as it is), that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t value him more highly than one year of Bryant (plus maybe the Cubs’ willingness to take back a bad pitcher contract?).
Suffice it to say, the Cubs and Mets are probably talking a Bryant trade, and, related or not, Davis is someone in whom they’ve reportedly shown interest.
* * *
Of course, it seems increasingly likely that Justin Turner’s continued presence on the free agent market is delaying any such action.
Although Turner is much older than Bryant, he offers a similar profile in that they’re both shorter-term, higher-price, right-handed, offense-first, third basemen you might add only to a team definitely looking to compete in 2021.
As of today, the Dodgers still seem like the most likely landing spot for Turner, but he’s reportedly looking for more years than they’re willing to offer, and that’s opened the door to other teams to jump into the conversation:
Even after signing Kolten Wong to a two-year, $18 million contract, the Milwaukee Brewers remain interested in free-agent third baseman Justin Turner, according to sources familiar with the situation.
… with the structure of Wong’s contract, deferring $5 million of the $7 million he is owed in 2021, perhaps the Brewers can put together an offer strong enough to entice Turner to leave the Dodgers.
And now you can see where things get interconnected.
If the Dodgers are unable to re-sign Turner, they might turn back to the Cubs in a deal for Bryant (those rumors have been on and off at the periphery for the better part of the two offseasons). And so the Cubs may be reluctant to button things up with the Mets as long as that possibility remains. Oh, and also? Maybe the Mets like Turner, too!
You’d like to assume Turner is nearing a decision, what with Spring Training beginning next week, but Robert Murray has heard that executives still believe he’ll be able to get the long-term deal he’s seeking, even if it takes longer than expected.
So where does that leave us? Well, I think it’s something like this:
• The Cubs are still open to trading Kris Bryant, but it would have to be an actual quality return.
• Bryant’s market might be down to the Mets and (possibly) the Dodgers.
• The Cubs may not trade Bryant until after Justin Turner signs.
• Turner’s market is down to the Dodgers and Brewers (and maybe the Mets?).
• If Turner signs with L.A., the Cubs could come to a conclusion with New York.
• If Turner signs with the Brewers, the Cubs could set up a coastal bidding war.
• At some point, for some reason, the Cubs have shown interest in J.D. Davis.
I’m not rooting for a Bryant trade, but please, oh please, let this come to a conclusion already. It’s exhausting. And as Bryant has noted, it can’t be fun for him, either.