Chicago Cubs: What would lead them to consider trading Bryant?
Imagine a scenario where the Cubs are unable to win the vastly improved NL Central in 2018 and are forced to fight for a Wild Card spot. The Brewers showed last year they have arrived. The Cardinals are improved and the Braves and Nationals have already taken steps forward with the offseason still in its early stages. A playoff appearance is not the certainty it has been for the Cubs in recent years.
Let’s say Bryant has the year Steamer projects him to have, hitting .274/.382/.503 with 29 home runs, 99 RBI and a 5.8 WAR. Envision Bryant reestablishing himself as an offensive threat, but the Cubs are unable to reach the postseason or fail to win a playoff series.
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Looking ahead to the 2019 offseason, the Cubbies might look to remake their roster in big ways. Perhaps the Mets underachieve (again) and the Cubs have the opportunity to add Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard in a Bryant trade. There are many teams that would be interested in two years of a healthy Kris Bryant.
Could the Cubs move Bryant when he’s at maximum value?
Ponder the likeliness that Bryant’s defense will eventually force a move to the outfield, making him less valuable to the Cubs. Epstein and Hoyer could look ahead and conclude that a power-hitting outfielder with a history of shoulder injuries and no designated hitter to fall back on might not be worth a $30 million annual investment into his thirties.
What if the Cubs see Nolan Arenado as a replacement for Bryant since the Colorado third baseman will reach free agency as a 28-year-old following the 2019 season? With six Gold Gloves to his credit, the Cubs could see him as a better long-term investment than Bryant.
Another scenario, though far-fetched, would see Bryce Harper sign with the White Sox, which would stoke rumors that Bryant and his long-time friend, in fact, did intend to play in Chicago together, but on the South Side. Think Cub fans would boo them when they came to Wrigley?