Robert Murray and Mark Carman had Chicago Sun-Times Cubs beat reporter Russell Dorsey on their podcast today, which makes for an interesting listen regardless of any specifics. But it was certainly a specific set of comments from Murray that happened to catch all of our ears today.
The trio were discussing the Cubs’ offseason so far, as well as the departures of certain core members of the team, and Murray clearly had something he wanted to drop into the discussion.
Murray said he was happy that Kris Bryant had come up because, “That is something I’ve been working on behind the scenes. I was told by somebody who would know Chicago: ‘I would not rule it out.’ And it’s been on my mind ever since. I’m tracking that one …. I do think Kris Bryant going back to Chicago is a realistic scenario. And the number you threw out – 27, 28 million bucks – makes a whole lotta sense …. ”
Murray is a connected national reporter at this point in his career, so if this is something he’s digging in on, it is at least worth a mention here on your Tuesday evening.
A lotta things are popping into my mind, so let me just run them down:
1.) It’s long been assumed that Kris Bryant and the Cubs would not marry up long-term. I’m not saying that was a fair assumption or the right thing or any of that. I’m not passing judgment on the assumption. But it *HAS* been the assumption. Pick your reason: because an extension didn’t get done early on, because Bryant was reaching free agency at age 30, because of the service time grievance, because Bryant is the type of move-the-ball-forward-for-others player who is definitely going to take the top-of-the-market offer, or because of whatever else you want to point to. It simply became an assumption a long time ago that Bryant was going to hit free agency (or be traded sooner), and that would be that.
2.) All that notwithstanding, it would be foolish for Bryant and his agent, Scott Boras, to rule out any possible landing spot. The Cubs are clearly in a position to spend if they want, so why would anyone on his side of things “rule it out”? (Also, note that Murray suggested his source was someone who would know Chicago, not necessarily someone in Bryant’s camp. To be sure, that could still be someone in Bryant’s camp – they’re pretty familiar with the Cubs organization at this point! – but the implication is that this was a point Murray’s source was making about the Cubs, not necessarily about Bryant.)
3.) Furthermore, Bryant had a lot of success in Chicago, he’s always expressed his affection for the city and the organization, and he even went out of his way to say great things about the way Jed Hoyer handled the Trade Deadline.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 1, 2021
4.) As for the Cubs, it’s not like they wouldn’t have a spot available for Bryant – pick any of several spots! – and they clearly value his versatility. You could say the Cubs would be best served adding a pricey shortstop or a pricey left-handed bat and I wouldn’t fight you. But, as a threshold matter, I think we can all agree that it’s not as if the Cubs couldn’t happily find starts for Kris Bryant. That part isn’t really a question.
Instead, the question would be more about the price tag, the years, and the aging curve. Bryant is likely going to be in a position to command a deal in the, say … six+ year, $25+ million annually range? Would the Cubs, in their current situation, feel that kind of deal is the best use of resources when Bryant probably doesn’t turn them into an obvious contender (without several other moves) in 2022, and when his best remaining years are likely to be 2022/23?
It’s a question we’ve asked many times about free agents relative to where things stand with the Cubs right now, and while you can force the logic to make a short-term, high-AAV deal make sense for just about any player, and you can force the logic to make a long-term, high-AAV deal make sense for a 27-year-old, it’s harder to do the same with a long-term, high-AAV deal for a player in his 30s. I’m not saying the Cubs are completely out on guys like Bryant right now. I’m just saying the fit is less obvious without a startlingly savvy coordination of many other moves.
5.) Basically, I can’t see taking this report any further than what Murray heard, literally, from his source: you merely can’t rule it out.
Maybe Bryant’s market just never gets to where he’s hoping, and maybe he winds up a guy taking a surprising short-term, high-AAV deal? Or maybe, after being out there, he decides he really wants to be in Chicago? Maybe this, maybe that. You don’t close the door absolutely on a guy who is a very good baseball player, and who is likely to still be a very good baseball player for many more years. If things fall just right, then, hey, sure, I could see the Cubs and Kris Bryant getting back together. I think it’s a very low-probability situation, but it’s at least conceivable.
So, like Murray, we can at least “track this one.”