RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: Adding Kris Bryant? It would at least make the Sox relevant

RED SOX INSIDER

Quick thoughts on the idea of the Red Sox pursuing former NL MVP Kris Bryant in a trade with the Cubs ... 

* I'm trying to figure out how one year of Bryant makes any sense. The slugging third baseman becomes a free agent after the 2021 season, when he'll be 30 years old. On a different Red Sox team, with different aspirations, a case could be made for acquiring him now to fuel a World Series run and then using your considerable financial resources to sign him long-term.

But the Red Sox aren't anywhere close to the World Series, and they're coming off a winter when they couldn't find the money to retain franchise icon Mookie Betts at age 27.

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Now they're going to buy out Bryant's 30s, when their contention window might not open until 2023 or 2024? And who's to say he'd even want to sign here in the first place? Another second-division finish wouldn't exactly be the most enticing sales pitch.

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom might not say much in his press conferences, but on one point he has been crystal clear -- the Red Sox will not make moves that harm the future. The Cubs will assuredly demand a ransom for Bryant, especially with Jed Hoyer officially taking the reins from Theo Epstein and embarking on his first offseason as Cubs president.

It would be hard to justify a steep prospect cost for one year of Bryant, even if his acquisition would make the Red Sox feel relevant.

 

* Then again, let's talk about relevance for a second. The Red Sox desperately need it, and Bryant would add star power to a roster lacking needle-movers. Maybe the Red Sox believe they're closer to contention than the rest of us do. And maybe they're preparing to open their checkbook again. How would Bryant fit then?

The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder isn't the player he was early in his career. In a lot of ways, he has followed the Dustin Pedroia path, winning a Rookie of the Year in 2015 and then an MVP a year later before battling some injuries. Over his first three years, he posted a .915 OPS. Over the last three years, however, his OPS has dipped to .846.

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His problems started in 2018, when shoulder issues cost him 60 games. He bounced back in 2019 with 31 homers and his third All-Star berth, but his numbers plummeted during the truncated 2020, when he hit .206 in just 34 games.

Bryant's track record suggests 2020 was just a blip. But then again, the Red Sox are already hoping the same about J.D. Martinez.

* An obvious issue with bringing in Bryant is where to play him. He's a third baseman by trade, which means either Bryant or incumbent Rafael Devers would have to move. The presumption is that Bryant would shift to left field, a position he has played over 100 times in his career.

However, Devers is no Gold Glover at third. He has led American League third basemen in errors for three years running, and there has already been speculation that the Red Sox could slide him across the diamond to first base if his defense at the hot corner doesn't improve.

Unfortunately, Bryant's defense at third is considered below-average, too, so it's possible he wouldn't be an upgrade on Devers, especially since the latter is only 24. In other words, there's a chance the Red Sox could begin spring training with a pair of All-Star caliber third basemen, neither of whom is a long-term answer at third base.

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* Bryant does have ties to Boston. His father, Mike, is a Medford native who was drafted out of ULowell in 1980 before spending two years in the Red Sox system, where his teammates included future big leaguers Oil Can Boyd, Al Nipper, and Tom Bolton.

Mike Bryant grew up reading "The Science of Hitting," the seminal tome by Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who became one of Bryant's spring training instructors during his brief Red Sox career.

Mike's playing career ended in 1981 after he hit .210 at Single-A Winter Haven. He moved to Las Vegas and became a hitting coach, with his son emerging as his star pupil. Kris Bryant homered in his Fenway Park debut with the Cubs in 2017 and pointed to his dad in the stands.

Perhaps their journey can come full circle.