Bryce Harper to the Cubs is, like, so 2018.
It seems more and more unlikely Harper will be looking for housing on the North Side of Chicago anytime soon, with several Cubs throwing cold water on the rumor in the last week, including Kris Bryant (though he also said he hasn't talked to his buddy in a couple weeks and claimed he and Harper never discussed where he might sign).
So let's turn our attention to the next big free agent crush that could occupy Cubs fans' attention.
No, not Nolan Arenado.
Is it far too soon to be thinking about Mike Trout's free agency when he's still under contract with the Angels for the next two years? Of course. But this is the internet and this place was made for random, way-too-early thoughts and debates on interesting topics.
Bleacher Report came up with odds for which team would sign Trout in the winter of 2020-21 and the Cubs came in with the 8th highest chance (19/1 odds) of inking the game's best player to a deal. The rest of their list included the White Sox, Dodgers, Nationals, Yankees, Red Sox and Angels with better chances than the Cubs, but that all makes sense given the lofty spending habits of those teams and the financial flexibility of the White Sox. Even the Angels would have a ton of money then with Albert Pujols' awful contract about to expire after 2021.
But focusing on just the Cubs' perspective on the matter, it'd be hard to see the team handing out what may be the loftiest deal in MLB history at that point in time.
Yes, the Cubs may have money, as only Jason Heyward and Yu Darvish have guaranteed contracts for 2021, but they also have $13 million in buyouts owed to Jon Lester ($10 million), Anthony Rizzo ($2 million) and Daniel Descalso ($1 million) even if they don't pick up the respective options of each player. So the team already has $58.5 million committed to the 2021 payroll and only two actual players on the hypothetical roster. Picking up the options for Lester ($25 million), Rizzo ($14.5 million) and Descalso ($3.5 million) would bring the grand total of committments to $88.5 million for only five players.
Then there's the matter of all the arbitration, which would include Kris Bryant's final year under team control and a contract that may well climb over $20 million for 2021. Plus, the final year of arbitration — and thus, the most expensive years — for Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell (if he's still around), Mike Montgomery and Carl Edwards Jr. (It stands to reason the Cubs would obviously like to retain at least a couple of those players beyond 2021, so they'd need to earmark money for the winter after Trout, too.)
Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ will all be in their second year of arbitration in 2021 and even David Bote would be in his first year of a non-rookie contract.
So sure, the Cubs will have Tyler Chatwood's contract coming off the books after 2020 among other salary reductions, but every guy that we know could be on their roster in 2021 is slated for an expensive contract.
Theo Epstein (or whoever's in his position two years from now) will have to focus an awful lot of resources on fixing a pitching staff that currently has only Darvish, Montgomery, Edwards and Kendall Graveman under contract for 2021. You know, unless the organization actually starts developing young pitchers through the system — something that has been the black eye of this front office in the near-decade they've been running the Cubs.
The Cubs' payroll will certainly undergo changes between now and then with the new TV deal and a potentially new CBA that may shake up free agency as we know it (especially after the last two winters).
Either way, it's two years out and so much can happen in two years.
Two years ago, many Cubs fans wanted their favorite team to land Harper and that only intensified all the way through the month of October last fall. Yet we've seen how that's played out.
But hey — Mike Trout is a free agent in November 2020 so...maybe? Or maybe not?
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