Nothing has materialized on the Kris Bryant front yet, but one NL East contender appears to be out of the race for the standout Chicago Cubs third baseman.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the majority of the Chicago Cubs‘ tepid offseason has been focused on the will they or won’t they relationship between Kris Bryant and the team. One moment, it seemed as if it was a near inevitability that Bryant would be traded, but now, nothing is certain.
Various teams have been suggested as landing spots for the former MVP, with the majority of said teams residing in the NL East. One contender from that division, however, appears to have somewhat bowed out of the race for Bryant.
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The Philadelphia Phillies hoped to have a lineup featuring Bryant alongside their $330 million man Bryce Harper, but recent reports suggest they are unlikely to pursue the third baseman (subscription required). It’s not really a surprise either, given the lack of high-end talent the Cubs would want to trade for.
Near the end of last year, MLB listed the Phillies farm system outside of the top 15, with their three most notable prospects being Alec Bohm, Spencer Howard, and Bryson Stott. Of those three, only Howard has an ETA of next year, meaning the return wouldn’t exactly be immediate unless the Cubs also received a big league player at the same time.
The major league players Philadelphia would likely be willing to part with don’t really fit the Cubs long-term plans. As Logan Whaley pointed out in a previous post, players like Zach Eflin and Jean Segura are either too mediocre or too expensive to be considered worthwhile returns for losing Bryant.
Between these two options, the Cubs very well may ask for Bohm and Howard plus a major league piece to get the trade done, as well as for nearly all of Bryant’s contract to be swallowed by Philadelphia. That’s a lot of future talent to give up for Bryant, sure, but considering his importance to Chicago, the team should be choosy with their return. The real deal-breaker for Philly, however, likely lies in that contract.
Bryant will make $18.6 million next year in arbitration which, alongside the hefty acquisitions of Zack Wheeler ($23.6 million AAV) this year and Harper ($25.4 million AAV) last offseason, would definitely throw the Phillies well over the luxury tax. This alone makes them a bad fit to deal with the Cubs since the Cubs’ entire goal this offseason was to get under the luxury tax. Taking on a sizable portion of Bryant’s contract is not an option to them if a trade is to happen.
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Personally, I’m glad that Philadelphia is backing out of the Bryant race. They never had the enticing pieces that the Braves or the Nationals could muster up in a trade. If the Cubs lose their star third baseman for this coming season, it has to be for the best return humanly possible, and the Phillies just don’t have it.