Recently, two reputable MLB insiders named the Cubs as potential suitors for Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. However, the consensus has been for the Cubs to make such a move, they’d have to trade Kris Bryant to clear payroll and open third base.
For that reason, the latest rumor connecting Arenado to the Cubs is the most shocking yet.
Saturday, Bruce Levine said on WSCR’s “Inside the Clubhouse” the Cubs are not only talking about acquiring Arenado but also keeping Bryant and moving him to the outfield.
“Could the Cubs end up with Arenado, and would that automatically mean that Bryant goes somewhere else? From what I heard from inside the Cub organization, are they considering making Bryant their everyday center fielder?
“I have no doubt [Bryant] can handle [center] at Wrigley Field. He’s always faced situations about different positions with a lot of character, with an awful lot of enthusiasm, with no doubt in his ability to be very good at that position.”
Both Levine and his co-host, Matt Spiegel, questioned how the Cubs would make the move happen. The club hasn’t signed any major-league free agents this winter (excluding split deals), and seemingly wants to stay under MLB’s luxury tax threshold.
Arenado is signed through 2026 (with an opt-out after 2021) for $234 million. He’ll make $35 million annually through 2024. To acquire him, the Cubs would have to send high-salary players to Colorado to make the money match up. Names that come to mind are:
- Jason Heyward — owed $21 million annually from 2020-21, $22 million annually from 2022-23
- Tyler Chatwood — owed $13 million in 2020
- Jose Quintana — owed $11.5 million in 2020.
But while the money would match, the Rockies would likely seek more in return for their superstar third baseman. According to Levine, the Cardinals and Rockies have discussed a deal featuring Arenado going to St. Louis in exchange for pitchers Matthew Liberatore, Dakota Hudson and Carlos Martinez, and outfielder Tyler O’Neill.
That offer would blow the aforementioned potential Cubs package — which is pure speculation — out of the water. Beyond that, Bryant has played 25 innings in center as a big-leaguer — though he has 1,054 total innings across the outfield. And if Heyward is dealt — opening up right field — why not play Bryant there, where he's more experienced?
Regardless, the issue that has plagued the Cubs all winter hasn't gone away. Unless they open some serious payroll space, Arenado to the Cubs is — as Levine and Spiegel mention — a pie in the sky possibility.
Update: According to WSCR's Julie DiCaro, Levine's comments may have been taken out of proportion.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.