Trading Kris Bryant could provide a remedy for the Cubs on multiple fronts.
Regardless of what you might believe, Kris Bryant is still undauntedly an incredibly talented baseball player. Now, looking at his 2020 performance, you might think that’s a far-fetched claim, but that’s still the case. The Cubs know that – and it will be top-of-mind as they dangle the former National League MVP in trade discussions this winter.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. If this guy is so talented, then why would Chicago look to move off him? Payroll flexibility. That’s why. After a season during which zero fans set foot inside Wrigley Field, ownership is undoubtedly clutching its pearls and tightening budgets across-the-board. We saw as much with the massive layoffs the organization employed throughout the year and we’ll see more of the same in the weeks and months to come.
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The Cubs picked up Anthony Rizzo’s $16.5 million team option for 2021 – which, at one point, seemed like far less than a sure thing. But will they be ready to shell out big money to Bryant in his final pass through the arbitration process? He’s projected to earn $18.6 million in his final year of team control – a hefty sum when you’re a team looking toward the future and worrying about payroll.
MLB Trade Rumors recently looked into potential trade destinations for the Las Vegas native, narrowing in on the following set of suitors that could both afford him and allow him to play his natural position at third base: Washington, Atlanta, Toronto, Dodgers, Tigers.
Now, they also delve into a set of teams that could afford Bryant, but would likely utilize him in the outfield, where he’s spent a chunk of time with the Cubs. That list includes the Astros, Giants, Marlins and Red Sox. Realistically, it’s hard to envision any of those teams outside Houston actually ponying up what it would take to pry Bryant away from Chicago.
Personally, the Dodgers, Braves and Astros look like front-runners should any of them choose to take a run at the former NL Rookie of the Year and three-time All-Star. Justin Turner is a free agent – and adding Bryant to the mix alongside Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger would cement Los Angeles as the clear-cut favorites to win it all again in 2021.
We’ve heard the Atlanta rumors for some time now, given their stock of young arms – something the Cubs need badly as they turn the corner into a new era of Cubs baseball in 2022 and beyond. Houston? Well, slotting Bryant in a corner outfield spot in a lineup that already boasts Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa hardly seems like a bad idea if you’re the Astros.
It’ll all come down to interest among these (and likely other) clubs and what Theo Epstein is prioritizing: is it about shedding the entirety of that salary or is he looking toward the future with high-ceiling prospects on the brain? We’ll have to wait and see – but I can promise you this. We’re going to see more Kris Bryant trade rumors again this offseason.