Cubs: We might as well kiss Kris Bryant goodbye

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The reality of not playing baseball in 2020 is hard enough for the game, but it might be even more ominous for Cubs fans who say Kris Bryant is done with the team.

Much has been made about the Chicago Cubs’ “competitive window” coming to a close. This could be Jon Lester’s last year with the club, and Jose Quintana will be a free agent this year. Much of Chicago’s core remains intact, but that is unlikely to last.

Instead of a lost season prompting management to keep the current group together, it is more likely they will sketch out plans to avoid financial calamity. Unfortunately, the first of these plans is expected to feature renewed trade talks with respect to Kris Bryant.

Bryant’s name was a practical staple in the rumor mill this past offseason, though nothing came of all the chatter. There even seemed to be hope the two sides would explore extension talks when Bryant showed no ill will at camp and reiterated his desire to remain in Chicago.

But a global pandemic figures to ruin the potential for an extension.

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Cubs fans do not need reminding how financial constraints prompted very little activity this winter. Years of surpassing the Competitive Balance Tax threshold had finally caught up with Tom Ricketts and Co., who showed a certain sense of urgency in staying below the mark for this season.

However, the pandemic has assured a substantial loss in revenue. Ricketts even called these losses “biblical” earlier this month.

Hyperbole or not, that statement would seem to point to the team being wary of significant financial commitments in the near future. This is where Bryant comes into play.

The 2016 NL MVP will be a free agent after the 2021 season. Bryant is sure to pursue a massive contract, as is his right. After all, Bryant ranks third among all players in fWAR between 2015 and 2019, per FanGraphs.

But an already complicated situation has grown even more tenuous for the Cubs.

Stars like Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are all set to join Bryant in free agency after 2021. The Cubs have already expressed interest in signing Baez to an extension, and they almost certainly will pursue such measures with Rizzo, who has already cemented himself as one of the best players in franchise history.

Given the added financial burdens beset by COVID-19, however, it seems incredibly unlikely the Cubs will be proactive in re-signing Bryant.

There were already whispers the Cubs could look to shop the likes of Bryant and Willson Contreras at the trade deadline if the team was not in contention. It would hardly be a surprise to see trade talks resume almost immediately once the moratorium is lifted.

To be clear, the Cubs would likely retain Bryant for a shortened 2020 season, in the event that happens. But he will almost certainly be shopped once again this offseason. The Cubs would not allow Bryant to walk without attaining value in return.

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In finality: Ricketts and the team were already concerned about the team’s financial outlook, and the pandemic has worsened the situation.

All of this is to say Cubs fans should enjoy Bryant while he is still on the North Side because he is not long for Chicago.