It remains to be seen whether the Chicago Cubs will try to trade former MVP Kris Bryant and the value Bryant might have on the market.
Kris Bryant cemented his place in Chicago Cubs lore almost as soon as he came to the major leagues in 2015. The former No. 2 overall pick won National League Rookie of the Year honors before taking home the NL MVP and leading the Cubs to a historic World Series title the following year.
The 28-year-old was third among position players in fWAR between 2015 and 2019, per FanGraphs, and looked to be the kind of cornerstone player any franchise would covet.
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But with Bryant hurtling towards a contract year, there is no telling if the Cubs can find a suitable deal for their third baseman. Bryant hit just four homers with a .644 OPS this season, and injury issues in the past few seasons might have tempered expectations as to his ceiling going forward.
If Theo Epstein chooses to move Bryant, there is one impending free agent who should pique Chicago’s interest: former playoff nemesis Justin Turner.
Turner had another excellent season in a loaded Los Angeles Dodgers lineup, hitting .307 with a .860 OPS in 42 games. He also had excellent advanced numbers, ranking above the 93rd percentile in xwOBA, xAVG and xSLG, per Baseball Savant. Unlike Bryant, Turner also does not swing-and-miss a whole lot, ranking in the 88th percentile in strikeout rate and 78th percentile in whiff rate.
In fact, Turner has been a model of excellence in L.A. The Long Beach native has posted above a .832 OPS in all seven seasons with the Dodgers, twice finishing in the top-10 in NL MVP voting. As Cubs fans know from playoff encounters, he is relentless in the strike zone, one of the hardest outs in baseball.
Moreover, Turner’s age and the market’s uncertainty this winter would make him the perfect target. Turner will be 36 next month and is unlikely to get anything more than a one- or two-year deal, especially when factoring in financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
This will be ideal if they trade Bryant, who will probably make over $20 million in his final arbitration year.
Chicago can try to get future value from Bryant while also repositioning by offering Turner a lucrative, one-year contract to be something of a stopgap at the hot corner. Sure, Cubs fans might like a D.J. LeMahieu or Marcell Ozuna, but those guys–both of whom will get multiyear deals–do not profile as targets for a Cubs team that has been unwilling to spend big in recent years.
There are some concerns in signing Turner, to be sure. Durability has been an issue, and he is hardly the same kind of defender he once was at third. But he is the kind of pure hitter who could make a real impact in the lineup while simultaneously keeping Chicago’s books clear for the future.
Of course, there is no guarantee they deal Bryant. But if they do, Turner might be the ideal target to help keep the team competitive in 2021.