Breathe easy Cubs fans - the Cubs are not trading Kris Bryant this winter.

ESPN's Buster Olney made waves Friday afternoon when he published a story entitled, "Cubs open to trading 3B Kris Bryant" and wrote: "the Cubs have indicated to other teams they are willing to discuss trade proposals for almost all of the players on their roster, including Bryant."

The 2016 NL MVP is under team control for another three years, but the Cubs' championship window is firmly open for each of those seasons and dealing away a player of Bryant's caliber would certainly not make the team better in the short term.

Apart from Olney's sources, the impetus behind the rumor Bryant may be on the market is Theo Epstein's quote from Wednesday evening at the GM Meetings this week.

The Cubs are expected to be active on the trade market this winter and the president of baseball operations was asked by a Chicago reporter if any of the players on the current roster are considered "untouchable."

"No, we've never operated with untouchables," Epstein said. "I just think it sends the wrong message. There are guys who - given what we're trying to accomplish - it would be virtually impossible to envision the deal that would make sense to move them.

"I just don't believe with operating with untouchables - because why limit yourself? There are players who are so important to us on the field and in the clubhouse that you'd be going backwards through whatever lens - narrow view, long view - by moving those guys. Players who have almost made themselves untouchable. It's semantics, but we don't talk that way."

 

So what does that mean?

It means guys like Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez and Willson Contreras are not "untouchable" but only in the true definition of the word. Essentially, those three guys are "untouchable" as they fit the second part of Epstein's explanation as players who are so important to the Cubs on and off the field.

The only reason Epstein doesn't use the word "untouchable" because if some team offered an absolutely ridiculous package for a guy like Bryant, the Cubs would be silly not to listen. But that would have to be a downright insane return for an MVP-caliber player who is also one of the faces of baseball, boasts impressive intangibles and can help the team win in so many ways beyond his bat - including defensive versatility unmatched by other superstar players around the game.

At the GM Meetings in Southern California, Epstein also admitted the Cubs front office has quietly tried to sign some of their young players to extensions, but have failed to do so. He declined to talk about any specific player, but it's fair to assume Bryant may have been one of those guys.

Bryant's agent is Scott Boras, who notoriously advises his clients to avoid signing extensions early and prefer to let his star players hit the open market and create a bidding war - like we're seeing right now with Bryce Harper.

The Cubs spent most of 2018 without a healthy and productive Bryant in their lineup and we saw how that worked out for the offense. Why would they willingly enter into that same situation for the next three years by dealing away Bryant?

The Cubs are not a rebuilding team. They're firmly in contention for a World Series in 2019 (you don't pick up a $20 million option on a starting pitcher like Cole Hamels if you're not aiming for the game's top prize) and it's near-impossible to see how trading away Bryant would get the Cubs another championship ring in 2019, 2020 or 2021.

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