Chicago Cubs: Are the Cubs willing to trade Kris Bryant?

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

A Jeff Passan ESPN story is making the rounds about the Chicago Cubs front office willing to entertain trading Kris Bryant.  Now I’ve heard everything.

To be fair to Jeff Passan, it wasn’t the only point of his article of the Chicago Cubs trading Kris Bryant. He also mentioned a possible trade of Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor in the same section of the report.  I’m not going to address those two, although the idea they could be traded might have more credence than the Cubs trading Bryant, though certainly not less.

Rumors abound when teams underperform

According to Passan, baseball execs have said that the Cubs would be willing to entertain talks about a trade for Kris Bryant.  But even as Passan points out, talk is cheap, and lots of rumors make the rounds.

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However, Theo Epstein has made statements this season about significant changes if the team doesn’t step up.  Couple that with his 2018 postseason statement that the team is going to emphasize performance, not potential, moving forward. Toss in a rumor and a story from ESPN, and there you go, Bryant is being traded.

Reason one why this won’t happen — he hits

If the Cubs trade Bryant they will have to replace this career slash: .284/.384/.516  and a .900 OPS.  That won’t just be difficult; it will be nearly impossible.

There’s a reason why Bryant is seen as an elite talent because he is.  Rookie of the Year in 2015, National League MVP in 2016, three-time All-Star. Since arriving in the Show in 2015, he has posted a 24.6 WAR.

His worst year, 2018, produced this slash: .272/.374/.460 and a .834 OPS.

Ah, some say, he’s not clutch enough. He only hits when the game is out of reach.  Not so fast.  A couple of weeks ago my colleague Michael Consolo wrote that Bryant’s clutch numbers were trending up.

Bryant has posted a career .256/.389/.448 and .837 OPS with RISP, two outs.  His high leverage slash is .270/.377/.460 and .837 OPS.  That’s pretty clutch to me.

Reason two why this won’t happen – I don’t know plays third

Bryant plays a premium position at the hot corner, and it’s not an easy position to fill. Remember when the Cubs let Aramis Ramirez walk after 2011 and then traded for Ian Stewart? Then tried Mike Olt, eventually settled on Luis Valbuena who was called up from the minors in 2012, then traded him.

That didn’t work out too well until Bryant arrived in 2015. Now, having settled that problem some think the Cubs would want to trade him?  I don’t think so.

There’s no one down on the farm even remotely MLB ready.  Nico Hoerner was hurt this year delaying his development significantly.  Vimael Machin is advancing nicely with solid numbers but again is at least a year, probably two, away from the Show.

Reason three this won’t happen — Bryant is an outstanding deal

With no one down on the farm to play third, you’re into the 2020 FA market.  Here’s that list, their ages in 2020, and current career slash lines:

Anthony Rendon, 30, .291/.367/.489 .856 OPS
Jedd Gyorko, 31, .246/.310/.423 .733 OPS
Ryan Flaherty, 33, .216/.286/.347 .633 OPS
Pablo Sandoval, 33, .280/.332/.448 .780 OPS
Josh Donaldson, 34, .273/.368/.510 .878 OPS
Todd Frazier, 34, .240/.317/.447/ .764 OPS
Martin Prado, 36, .288/.335/.413/ .748 OPS
Andres Blanco, 36, .256/.310/.378 .688 OPS

Rendon, the only viable option, has been on the upswing the past three seasons and is killing it this season: .327/.407/.614 and a 1.022 OPS. Of course, like Bryant, his agent is Scott Boras, so you know how that’ll go.

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Bryant, 27, is making $12.9 million in his second of four arbitration years. He received a $2.0 million bump from last year, so let’s say he gets a $5 million bump for next year, to $17.9.  That’s likely far less than Rendon will command.

None of the others are even close in terms of offense or defense.  I hope we’ve settled that issue. Bryant isn’t going anywhere.