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Analyzing Cubs-Nationals Kris Bryant trade packages

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USA TODAY

Analyzing Cubs-Nationals Kris Bryant trade packages

Tuesday, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported the Nationals have inquired with the Cubs regarding a potential trade for third baseman Kris Bryant.

According to Morosi, Bryant isn’t expected to be traded soon, as the market hinges on his unresolved service time grievance and the third base free agent market. It’s also very plausible the Cubs don’t move Bryant. They aren't looking to enter an all-out rebuild and don’t get better by trading him.

Moving Bryant would be to ensure the Cubs get something back for him rather than allowing him to walk in free agency for nothing. However, they may deem any offers as unsatisfactory.

With Morosi’s report in mind, our friends over at NBC Sports Washington put together three potential packages for a Cubs-Nationals Bryant trade. Using those same packages, here’s what they'd look like from a Cubs perspective.

Scenario No. 1

Nationals acquire: 3B Kris Bryant
Cubs acquire: INF Carter Kieboom, RHP Mason Denaburg and LHP Tim Cate

Any Nationals trade proposals must start with Kieboom. The 22-year-old infielder is Washington’s No. 1 prospect and No. 20 overall in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.

Kieboom started last season in Triple-A but made his big-league debut in late April after Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon went down with injuries. He struggled at the plate, hitting .128/.209/.282 in 11 games before getting sent back to Triple-A for the rest of 2019.

That sample size is incredibly small and Kieboom had a stellar minor league season. He posted a .303/.409/.493 line with 16 homers and 79 RBIs in 109 games while splitting his time defensively between third base (10 games), second (41) and shortstop (62).

Kieboom would be a fantastic addition because he'd likely join the Cubs big-league roster right away. He could replace Bryant as the starting third baseman, but his defensive versatility presents other possibilities. Along with Nico Hoerner, Kieboom could backup shortstop Javier Báez.

Hoerner may start next season as the Cubs starting second baseman but he can also play some center field. If the latter is the case, Kieboom could play second while someone like David Bote plays third.

Denaburg is Washington’s No. 5 prospect (third-ranked pitching prospect) and Cate is No. 6 (fourth-ranked pitching prospect). Pipeline projects Denaburg to be a No. 3 starter — if everything clicks — and Cate to be a back-of-the-rotation arm.

The duo may not have the ceilings to be top-of-the-rotation guys, but the Cubs have struggled to develop starting pitching under Theo Epstein. Denaburg and Cate are a couple years away from the big leagues, but they’d help replenish the Cubs farm system and could be rotation mainstays going forward.

Scenario No. 2

Nationals acquire: 3B Kris Bryant
Cubs acquire: INF Carter Kieboom,
 RHP Joe Ross and RHP Wil Crowe

The Cubs would get a little bit of everything in this hypothetical package. In Kieboom, they’d acquire a potential franchise cornerstone. In Ross, they’d acquire a pitcher to fill their rotation vacancy opened by Cole Hamels, who departed in free agency. And in Crowe, they’d acquire a pitching prospect, something they covet.

Each player comes with questions, however. The Cubs wouldn’t expect Kieboom to step into their lineup and instantly match Bryant’s production. Kieboom has barely scratched the big-league surface. And as we’ve seen with the Cubs — i.e. Bryant, Javier Báez, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr. — player development isn’t linear. The Cubs wouldn’t expect Kieboom to become an offensive force from Day 1.

Ross has had an up-and-down career to date. From 2015-16, he made 35 appearance (32 starts), sporting a 3.52 ERA in 181 2/3 innings. He struck out 162 batters compared to 50 walks over that span, posting a respectable 1.222 WHIP.

Ross started all 16 games he appeared in from 2017-18 but only started nine of 27 in 2019. Across those three seasons, he holds a 5.21 ERA and 1.536 WHIP in 153 2/3 innings. He also underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2017 and is out of options entering 2020.

Nonetheless, Ross is only 26 years old and could afford a fresh start. He showed from 2015-16 he’s capable of being a serviceable MLB starter, and the Cubs could do a lot worse than him as a fifth rotation guy. If they’re lucky, perhaps the 2011 first-round pick turns into something greater.

Crowe, 25, is the Nationals No. 4 prospect and second-ranked pitching prospect (per Pipeline). He underwent Tommy John in 2015 but bounced back to become Washington’s second round pick in 2017. Last season, he posted a 4.70 ERA in 26 starts, though that figure jumped from 3.87 in Double-A (16 starts) to 6.17 in Triple-A (10).

Crowe is projected to be a No. 4 or 5 starter and is knocking on the big-league door. That could be enticing for the Cubs, as José Quintana is a free agent after 2020 and Jon Lester could reach the open market, too, if his option doesn’t vest.

Scenario No. 3

Nationals acquire: 3B Kris Bryant and LF Kyle Schwarber
Cubs acquire: OF Adam Eaton, RHP Joe Ross and RHP Jackson Rutledge

From the Cubs' perspective, this scenario makes the least sense of the three. Trading Bryant and Schwarber would open up payroll space for the Cubs to address other holes on the roster. Bryant is projected to make $18.5 million next season, while Schwarber is projected to make $8 million.

The idea here is the Cubs would shed salary but still remain competitive. Eaton — who slashed .279/.365/.428 last season — would present the Cubs with an everyday leadoff man, something they’re seeking this offseason. Ross would fill their rotation vacancy, while Rutledge — Washington’s top pitching prospect and first-round pick last season — has the potential to be an ace down the road.

That’s a solid package, but not in exchange for both Bryant and Schwarber. Trading Bryant alone would put a dent in the Cubs’ lineup. Sure, Eaton could replace Schwarber in left field, but the latter is coming off a stellar second half last season. The Cubs have invested a ton in Schwarber, remaining patient during his trials and tribulations since 2017. Now is not the time to trade him.

Bryant and Schwarber are both under contract through 2021. Eaton will make $9.5 million next season and has a club option for 2021; Ross is projected to make $1.4 million next season is arbitration eligible through 2021.

Add that up, and the Cubs would be trading two cogs in their lineup for:

-A year, maybe two, of a 31-year-old year outfielder
-A year or two of a back-end starter/reliever
-A pitching prospect with high-upside

The idea of shedding payroll makes sense, but this package specifically wouldn’t work for the Cubs. 

Only time will tell if the Cubs trade Bryant and what they'd get back for him. As they consider any potential proposals, they'll have to ensure what they're being offered will help the organization now and going forward. 

Andy Green ‘fired up’ to be with Cubs, help David Ross any way he can

Andy Green ‘fired up’ to be with Cubs, help David Ross any way he can

It’s quite fitting Andy Green’s introduction to Cubs Nation came at the team’s annual fan festival this weekend.

Green, whom the Cubs officially hired as bench coach in December, grew up a Reds fan in his native Lexington, Ky. It wasn’t long before his allegiances changed to one of Cincinnati’s geographic neighbors, however.

“I went to [former Reds ballpark Riverfront Stadium] as a kid at like 5, 6, 7, first time I saw big-league baseball,” Green told NBC Sports Chicago on Saturday. “But my mom took me up to Wrigley at 12 or 13. I was like ‘This is big-league baseball.’

“I switched over allegiances that time as a Cubs fan, watched Ryne Sandberg — Mark Grace was somebody who jumped off the page to me at that point in time. It was late 80s, early 90s.”

After four years managing the Padres, Green’s childhood fandom has come full circle. Now, he’s David Ross’ right-hand man, brought in to use his own experience managing to help the first-year manager adapt to his new position.

When Green took the helm in San Diego in 2016, the Padres were in the thick of a full-scale rebuild. He holds a 274-366 won-loss record, but that isn’t indicative of what he’s bringing to the Cubs dugout.

“Andy so far for me probably [has been] the biggest help for me in directing my thoughts, getting things organized, getting prepared,” Ross said Saturday at a coaching staff panel. “This guy has been through the season, the National League, knows the details of what it takes to lead.

“Obviously, his resume and what he’s done building a young group over in San Diego speaks for itself. Who he is as a person, Andy right off the bat probably [has] been the biggest help for me. Sends me text messages, emails about leading, about coaching. I can’t say enough about this guy, and I’m very blessed to have him next to me in every game. You guys are gonna see a great product, and a lot of my big decisions, I’ll have a great mind next to me helping me make those.”

Green said he’s spent the last few months learning what Ross’ vision is as a manager and how he intends to execute it going forward. Managing games and preparing for them are different beasts, but Green can already see the intangibles that could make Ross successful.

“He’s fun to work with, he’s hungry to win, he can hold people accountable and smile at the same time, which is an unbelievable skillset that I don’t have,” Green said of Ross. “People feel it when I come down on them. They feel love when he comes down on them. He just has that [relatability] that very few people do, and that’s incredibly impressive to me.”

Accountability has been the word of the offseason for the Cubs. After five seasons with Joe Maddon as manager, the club felt it was time for a new voice in the dugout. They hired Ross not only to try and make the team greater than the sum of its parts, but also hold players accountable, putting them in their place and using tough love when needed.

Ross will have a lot on his plate this season, so he'll rely on Green to lead in areas as needed and take a load off his plate.

“For [managers], there’s a large number of tasks that if you have a capable staff, you can just delegate and not even think about,” Green said. “I want to take that kind of stuff off his plate, stuff that doesn’t have to have the manager’s attention, because you can get some decision fatigue, because it’s amazing what comes at you in that seat.

“I know what that feels like, so every now and again, it’s nice to have somebody who doesn’t just have the answer but has the feelings that come with the answer. I’ve enjoyed it, and honestly, it’s a whatever he needs type thing. My vision on him is I’ve watched him do so much prep work this offseason getting ready for game decisions. He’s going to be great. He’s going to be great.”

It also helps that Green has four years of managing under his belt. Ross can learn from his successes in San Diego, but also learn from Green’s failures to ensure he doesn’t make the same mistakes common in new managers.

“It takes a little minute to know where the best answer is on the bench, and he’ll figure that out pretty quickly,” he said of Ross. “Executing the game decisions, you have to find out in time how he processes those things.

“I made a lot of mistakes. He can learn from my mistakes without having to make them himself. If you can share things in humility, a lot of times it keeps somebody else from repeating your mistakes. There’s things I messed up on, things I did well too. Kinda share those visions along the way and make certain the whole way that this is David Ross’ team and he’s leading this team and all I’m here to do is support and help him and help the players perform at their top level.”

Green spent four years with a losing club. He’s joining a Cubs team full of star players — which, as functioning infield coach on a team with Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, excites him. He wants to win now and believes Ross is the man to lead the way.

And, again, the lure of being a Chicago Cub was strong.

“The fan base is one that you’re fired up to go to work for and bring a winner to,” he said. “Whatever part I can play in that, I’m fired up to do it.”

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Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras and viral moments at Cubs Convention go hand-in-hand.

At the team’s annual fan festival in 2018, Contreras stole the show with a story from the 2017 season. During a mound visit against the Cardinals, the Cubs catcher gave profanity-laced advice to Jon Lester, the Cubs starter who rarely throws pickoffs due to a serious case of the yips.

"I went out there and I said, 'Hey motherf--ker, throw the f--king ball to first,'” Contreras recalled in January 2018.

Contreras stole the show again Saturday, telling a story about a moment against the Cardinals — this time from the 2019 season.

“So last year, we were facing the Cardinals and I started talking to [Marcell] Ozuna,” Contreras said. “He told me ‘Just call a fastball right down the middle.’ [And I said] ‘Yeah okay, I will.’ Then I called the fastball and he took it.

“I told him ‘What the f— are you talking about? Just hit the ball, just hit it.’

“He asked me ‘Just call it again.’ And I did it. He took it. Swing the [bat]. I called a third pitch and it was a strikeout. And then next time it was like just ‘Shut up,” or something."

Warning: graphic language

How Contreras will top this at 2021 Cubs Convention is uncertain, but considering he now has two viral moments on his resume, we can be sure the next one will be just as amazing.

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