Truly, I meant it earlier today when I said I wanted to avoid talking about the Kris Bryant midseason trade stuff until, you know, much closer to midseason. And I guess I’m not exactly talking about it now – just a few hours later! I’m instead talking more about the philosophical point about trading players like Bryant in seasons like this in general.
Jon Morosi, who is a very good national MLB reporter, did some opining today on 670 The Score (I emphasize opining so as to distinguish it from his reporting) about the future with Kris Bryant, and he got really specific and really bold:
If #Cubs are doing it right, they'll trade Kris Bryant around July 1 and get back premier talent in low, low levels of minor leagues that fans have never heard of.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) May 14, 2021
Although the part about trading Bryant for low-level, high-upside talent (a la the Yu Darvish trade) is what will catch many hostile eyes, it’s actually his timeline that I want to beef about, and is why I’m writing about it today despite my earlier post.
If the timeline on trading Bryant were THAT accelerated (late June/early July), then trade talks would have to start soon. And I really don’t see that happening, both because the Cubs will want to really give this more time to see what competitiveness can look like, and also because how many serious bidders are going to engage in trade talks in mid-May?
This point, from Morosi, just strikes me as mistaken thinking, in general, about in-season trades:
“If I’m the Cubs, if I’m Jed Hoyer, I would say this – ‘Listen, we’ll make the trade a little earlier,’” Morosi said. “It may be a month earlier. I think back to CC Sabathia, when the Brewers traded for him back in ’08. They got an extra month because that deal happened in early July. And those types of decisions, when you’re trying to trade a rental player, four months of Kris Bryant – I’m not saying they’re going to trade him on June 1 – but even three months of Bryant are fundamentally different than two months. It really is.
“The thing that’s going to help them the most is if they trade him on July 1 instead of July 31.”
Up front, Morosi is right that three months of Bryant are far more valuable than two. But what this argument is missing is that the information gleaned in that third month – late June into late July – is also very valuable. It’s valuable to possible buyers, because they will know so much more about their team, its needs, and its playoff chances on July 20 than they do on June 20. It’s also very valuable to sellers because the market develops so much more by late July than where it is in early July. There’s a reason the vast, vast majority of trades – even those long expected – don’t go down until the final week of July. It’s not as if every team doesn’t know that three months of a player is better than two months of a player.
Obviously teams do pull off trades in early July. We’ve seen the Cubs do it earlier in the rebuilding process – the Samardzija/Hammel deal was July 4, the Feldman/Arrieta/Strop deal was July 2 (interestingly, all three were starting pitchers). I’m not saying it cannot happen.
But what I will say is it requires at least three things: (1) a seller that *EVERYONE KNOWS* is a seller for a long, long time; (2) ongoing and established talks with multiple teams to feel out the market; and (3) a really aggressive buyer that is willing to pay enough of a price that the seller is willing to forgo a possibly better market later in the month.
Maybe Jed Hoyer is particularly great at making those things happen, but I’m not so sure I see it in the Bryant situation.
On item one, while it is likely that the Cubs will become sellers this year, I’m not ready to surmise they are completely committed to it just yet. They’re gonna want to see what happens over the next month, because if by some chance they get smoking hot and are looking surprisingly great come early July, they might just want to push some chips in to ride out this group one last time while they have them. Yes, trading for prospects is cool, but you know what’s even cooler? Making a deep postseason run any season you have a chance to do it!
Again, I don’t think that’s likely for these Cubs. But if it’s a 2 to 15% chance, and if you can have a much better sense of where you fall in that range come mid-July, then you play it out. If things go to total dogshit between now and July 1, fine, re-assess. But what if it goes in the other direction between now and July 1?
On item two, I think there are probably already some teams known to be interested in Bryant, based on past talks. That’s just a hunch. But those talks would’ve taken place in an entirely different context. I’m not saying the Cubs and those teams would be starting from scratch, but I also think it would take a little more time than a phone call with one of them to suss out the entire market. If the Cubs are going to trade Bryant at all, let alone very early, then they’re going to make absolutely certain they get a return that justifies it. You can’t do that if you haven’t even had conversations.
Which brings me to item three: if the Cubs WERE to trade Kris Bryant on the early side – forgoing a developed market – they would do it only where the price tag offered up is so over-the-top that they know, to a reasonable degree of certainty, the offers aren’t getting better in late July (so why risk it?). And if some team is throwing up that shot in late June or early July, it isn’t going to be just a bunch of youngsters who come with massive risk. You can’t really have it both ways in the prognosticating: either the Cubs are trading Bryant very early because it comes with a better return from an overly-eager buyer, or we have to be realistic about what they can get for a mere two months of a rental. If you’re claiming that the first part is true, then you should also be claiming that the return – if the Cubs moved him early – would actually be pretty impressive.
Me? I just don’t think that big-time offer is going to come in late June or early July. I think the combination of the Cubs wanting more time to feel things out – including their own competitiveness – and other teams wanting to feel out their own situations before really stepping up to the plate to compete with other bidders, together make the likelihood so small.
I also am not sure it would even be the right move to try to press the market early (“Buy now and get 50% more KB!”), for all the reasons laid out. Can I be sure that I’m thinking dispassionately and am not a little swayed by the fact that it was literally just today that I wanted to think about the Cubs re-signing Bryant? Eh, maybe not. Because obviously that stuff is all also impacted by an early trade. But I’m pretty sure, even if I put myself into a mindset where a trade is eventually likely (heck, I probably do think that), it’s no lock that the best offer is going to be one that the Cubs get from a single buyer market in early July that they have to generate, as opposed to the offer(s) they would get from a fully-developed, urgent market in late July.
Long story short? No! I’m not thinking about Kris Bryant trade stuff yet! You can’t make me!