The dust is beginning to settle Wednesday following news that third baseman Kris Bryant lost his service time grievance case against the Cubs. The case argued the Cubs purposely kept Bryant in the minor leagues to open the 2015 season to gain an extra year of control on his contract.
Bryant will remain under team control through 2021, rather than see his free agency get pushed up to next offseason. However, the outcome doesn’t end the saga; the Cubs could still move Bryant to gain young assets with an eye towards long-term sustainability.
During an appearance on NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan’s “Kap and Co." Wednesday, ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported the Cubs and Rockies have discussed a 1-for-1 deal involving Bryant and Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado. Rogers added Colorado would pick up salary in such a deal.
The Cubs have been linked to Arenado multiple times over the past month, but the logistics of a deal would be tricky. Arenado, who signed a lucrative extension last February, is owed $234 through 2026 — including $35 million annually through 2024.
All of the Cubs roster moves this winter have been budget-driven, as the club is looking to remain under the luxury tax threshold. Adding Arenado’s salary would put the Cubs well into the red. Even if Colorado picked up salary, the Cubs would have to shed money through another trade, if they truly wish to remain under the threshold.
Arenado told MLB.com on Jan. 21 “There’s a lot of disrespect from people there that I don’t want to be a part of. You can quote that.” The comments came after Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich put trade talks involving the superstar to bed.
The Cubs’ motivation in this hypothetical would be cost certainty. Trading Bryant would ensure they don’t lose him for nothing — should he depart in free agency in two years — if they feel they won’t be able to extend him.
However, Arenado has an opt-out in his deal after 2021, so the Cubs could face the same fate if they acquired him.
Worth noting: ESPN’s Jeff Passan told Kaplan multiple times Wednesday Arenado would love to be a Cub. Rogers also opined he believes Bryant will be dealt, but not for Arenado.
It’s going to be an interesting few weeks, and it feels like the grievance outcome is only the start of what’s to come for the North Siders.