Given our proximity to the trade deadline, the certainty of the Cubs status as sellers, and Kris Bryant’s eminent availability, rumors right now are a dime a dozen. That’s not to say they’re all just noise, but under the circumstances, they’re not particularly unexpected or pressing. But that calculus all changes when the rumors start to get specific.
For example, when a credible source like Jon Morosi not only reports that the Cubs and Giants have recently discussed a trade for Bryant, but when a potential return (a player we’ve discussed previously) is also kicked around, it’s time to focus your attention:
Sources: The #SFGiants have spoken with the #Cubs about Kris Bryant, and the Cubs are evaluating 24-year-old catcher Joey Bart as one candidate to be requested on their side of the talks. Bart has a .904 OPS this year at Triple-A. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 28, 2021
Most of the Bryant rumors so far have had the Mets in the lead, but they’re hardly the only team in pursuit. Earlier this morning, for example, the Rays were connected to Bryant, as they look to supplement their offense at third base and across the outfield (and there are reportedly many more teams than that in running).
But this Giants squad is fighting an uphill battle in the NL West, with the Dodgers and Padres not only hot on their tail, but also looking to improve at the deadline. So while other, more secure playoff squads can focus on the finishing pieces to their playoff roster (say, a shutdown closer), the Giants could still use some help getting there. That’s where Kris Bryant comes in, where Morosi believes he could help out at first, third, and left field.
But Joey Bart? Is he really going to be available to the Cubs in a deal like this? Well, not so fast. Morosi followed up that tweet with a big HOWEVA, adding that Bart, the former No. 2 overall pick, would be dealt to the Cubs for Bryant only if another player were attached in the deal (which, yeah, that makes sense).
It’s impossible for me to speculate what level of player they’d be seeking to include Bart, but we do know they need starting pitching help and Zach Davies is available. Along the same lines, while you’re not likely to pair your top two trade chips together (Craig Kimbrel and Bryant), perhaps Ryan Tepera and Bryant could kill two birds for the Giants. It’s all speculation, but I’m just working through it on the fly. In any case, I hope the Cubs are willing to package multiple players together to get the best possible return (just like I hope they’d be willing to eat money for the same goal).
And, hey, Joey Bart would be a pretty great return — he’s a 24-year-old catcher hitting well in Triple-A, with a great pedigree and solid numbers throughout his journey up the minor league ladder — likely available only because (1) the Giants are going for it big time this season and (2) Buster Posey is having an absolute renaissance (158 wRC+) for the Giants and is still under control next year.
Bart, 24, was the second overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, and has been a top-50 prospect ever since (50 Future Value, No. 65 overall according to FanGraphs updated top-100 rankings).
He did get a taste of big league life last year (mostly unsuccessful at the plate, which isn’t particularly suprising), but only because the pandemic eliminated minor league baseball. In 188 Triple-A plate appearances this season (his first shot at that level), he’s slashing .310/.372/.532 (120 wRC+) with 9 homers. He strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk much, but he’s made plenty of contact throughout his minor league career. If the Cubs were able to get Bart for Bryant, I’d be thrilled.
But be careful of the wording there. It’s not as though Bart is being offered by the Giants, he’s just the guy the Cubs are reportedly asking about. And while, yes, Willson Contreras is under control for one more season, that shouldn’t stop you from adding the best possible talent you can find at the position. Catchers take long to develop, the Cubs have a LOT of exiting free agents (and thus roster spots to fill), the DH is coming, etc. You just have to get the best player you can. And in a deal centered around Bryant, Bart might be it. Rental position players just rarely net this kind of return.
The fact that he’s basically MLB ready and plays a premium position is just gravy. We’ll have to see if this leads anywhere real, but with the Rays rumor this morning and this one tonight, I’d say the Bryant market is officially on fire.