Cutting payroll for 2021, Kris Bryant trade rumours are surfacing once again. The All-Star third baseman is a free agent at the end of next season, and the Chicago Cubs could look to swing a deal this offseason.
Bryant’s free agency looms, but so does his injury record and down year in 2020. The Cubs’ desire to cut spending will lower the on-field product – trading Bryant is a surefire way to make them a weaker team in 2021.
Chicago already let Kyle Schwarber walk. Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez are free agents, like Bryant, after this season. The core that looked set for a dynastic run when they won in 2016 has won one postseason series since then. That core is already being picked apart, and it’s not unreasonable that none of them are on the 2022 team.
Whether another deep rebuild is on the cards or not, trading Bryant is clearly an option for Chicago. However they phrase it, the financial decisions made at the top are preparing the organisation for a new era, and likely waving goodbye to the curse-breaking heroes.
Bryant’s contract, and the potential for an extension, is an important factor when we consider which teams should trade for him. Front offices will evaluate his talent level differently after an up and down few years since his MVP campaign.
Possible trade destinations
Unless a new deal can be signed as the trade goes through, the assumption is that Bryant will be dealt to a contender. Even with an extension, it probably needs to be a team who can compete in the next couple seasons.
The prospect cost is unlikely to be as high as the Cubs hope. The majority of teams have the talent to get a deal done, but if Chicago want multiple Major League-ready pieces, how many front offices will be interested? This is a trade for organisations operating with a sense of urgency.
The New York Mets and Washington Nationals are obvious trade partners. The Mets would not balk at taking on Bryant’s salary. A deal around J.D. Davis would allow the Cubs to stay relatively competitive, while New York could attach a couple of their higher prospects like Matthew Allen.
For the Nationals, it depends on if they could get a deal done without relinquishing Carter Kieboom or Luis Garcia. An infield logjam is no major concern with Bryant’s ability to play the outfield. Washington is trying to compete, but their offence needs a boost after losing Anthony Rendon last offseason.
A case can be made for young teams like the Braves or Blue Jays, but Atlanta haven’t been in a hurry to deal their prospects and the positional fit might be too funky in Toronto.
The Dodgers and Yankees can be thrown into the mix (as they always are). Bryant doesn’t make much sense for either team.
The alternative to contenders is for a rebuilding team to use Bryant as a bounceback investment. Trade for him now, hope he explodes in 2021, and deal at the deadline next summer. It’s a risky strategy, though one that could work for teams like the Red Sox or Rangers.
Clubs nearing the end of a rebuild might consider a buy-low-and-extend trade for Bryant. We saw San Diego sign Eric Hosmer to install a cornerstone of their next contender – could the Giants or Mariners make a similar move?