Playing in what seems like his final season in a Chicago Cubs uniform, Kris Bryant is playing with a chip on his shoulder these days. After hitting two more home runs in Saturday’s lopsided rout of the Atlanta Braves, the former National League MVP is watching his trade value quickly climb.
The blasts, his fourth and fifth on the season, raised his OPS to the year to an impressive 1.026 – second only to Willson Contreras, who joined in on the fun, hitting a pair of home runs himself in the victory. Saturday marked a season-high offensive outburst for Chicago, which had struggled to score runs up to that point.
"“It feels like it was just bound to happen,” Bryant told MLB.com. “ I like to look at baseball as a law-of-average game. And we just weren’t getting it done. And now, we did today.”"
On the season, Bryant carries a .261/.352/.674 slash line – good for a 165 wRC+, the 13th-highest mark in Major League Baseball. Last year, he never got it going offensively, playing through injuries and posting a below-average wRC+ for the first time in his big league career.
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Given he’s making nearly $20 million in his final year of team control, Chicago wasn’t in a great bargaining position in trade talks this offseason. If Jed Hoyer had dealt his three-time All-Star, he’d have been selling at an all-time low. Instead, he opted to hold on to Bryant and hoped he’d rebuild some value early this season.
So far, so good.
It’s hard to envision a scenario where the Cubs don’t trade Bryant before the July 30 trade deadline. It seems like this is a relationship that’s run its course – and it might be better for both sides to go their separate ways. For Chicago, that means turning the slugging infielder into pieces for the future.
Cubs: Kris Bryant trade will be a big part of this team’s future
Jim Bowden of The Athletic (subscription required) tapped a Bryant trade as one of the eight moves MLB teams should weigh early in the season in a recent piece – and I agree with him.
By July – likely sooner – I see the Cubs making what will ultimately be a wildly unpopular move and trade Bryant, who I believe will earn the fourth All-Star selection of his career this season. It’ll be a move made with an eye on the future and on the bottom line, as ownership looks to recoup more of its losses from the pandemic-shortened, fan-less 2020 campaign.
The early returns from Bryant have been exciting because, despite what some on Twitter might like to say, he’s an elite talent in the game. Playing through injuries for his team have painted an inaccurate picture of what he has to offer lately – and now that he’s healthy, he’s once again proving he’s still very much a game-changing player.