No matter what, the Cubs won’t just non-tender Kris Bryant this offseason.
The coming months will undoubtedly offer an untraditional end to the 2020 calendar year. We saw the Los Angeles Dodgers hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time since 1988, as the Chicago Cubs faded down the stretch before faltering in the Wild Card Round.
Prior to the postseason, zero fans set foot inside any big league ballpark. Without that much-counted upon revenue stream, owners across the league are painting an increasingly bleak picture when it comes to the overall financial picture. Commissioner Rob Manfred suggested league losses came in north of $2 billion this year alone – a staggering figure.
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The Cubs, of course, are hardly an exception here. Ownership gutted the organization’s ranks, laying off north of 100 employees in various areas of the business – including Theo Epstein’s baseball operations department. If Chicago is to re-tool on the fly, they’ll need to do it short-handed and understaffed – hardly an ideal scenario.
Now, we know the team is going to look to shed payroll this offseason – as as many other clubs. Therein lies the problem. With many organizations across MLB hoping to scale back spending, we’re going to see less trade suitors for a team like the Cubs who otherwise could be wheeling and dealing some of their core pieces.
Anthony Rizzo ($16.5 million), Kris Bryant (projected $18.6 million), Kyle Schwarber (projected $7-9 million) and Javier Baez (projected $10-12 million) are all just one year from free agency – and represent a decent chunk of the team’s payroll heading into 2021. Already, Chicago declined Jon Lester’s $25 million option in lieu of a $10 million buyout – so there’s a good amount of payroll coming off the books. But it won’t be enough.
Make no mistake. The Cubs will exhaust every possible trade opportunity, especially with someone like Bryant, a former Rookie of the Year, MVP and three-time All-Star. In fact, speculation about potential destinations for the third baseman has already begun to swirl.
I know Tom Ricketts is concerned about his hemorrhaging money this year. I get that. But with Bryant coming off a brutal showing, his trade value has never been lower. By bringing him back into the fold for 2021, the Cubs are doing both him and themselves a favor by giving him a chance to rebound and re-establish his trade value.
A move at next year’s trade deadline certainly can’t be dismissed. In fact, that’s a pretty likely outcome – especially if Bryant bounces back early, stays healthy and once again puts himself in the conversation as one of the premier offensive threats in the game today.