When Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant’s name popped up in trade rumors last offseason, it was met with mass skepticism. Even with Bryant coming off a nagging shoulder injury, the idea of the Cubs parting with the 27-year-old seemed ludicrous.
Sure, Bryant appeared in just 102 games in 2018 due to a nagging left shoulder injury. But trading away the 2016 National League MVP — who is under team control through 2021 — wouldn’t have gotten the Cubs any closer to a championship during their current window of contention.
As is the case with most things in life, things can change over time. With this in mind, a recent report about Bryant from ESPN’s Jeff Passan doesn’t come as all that surprising, considering a multitude of factors involving the current state of the Cubs.
According to Passan, a number of MLB executives are expecting “monster names” to be featured in trade talks this offseason. This could include Bryant, Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. Passan offered the following explanation regarding Bryant:
Bryant is the wild card. A not-uncommon feeling inside the Cubs organization is the need for a big shake-up. Perhaps Maddon leaving would provide that. The sentiment among some extends to the players too. And with Javier Baez a reasonable bet to stick around -- more on that later -- and Bryant a Boras client more prone to testing free agency, the Cubs may see him as a combination of Betts and Lindor: a star with two years of control primed to hold out for free agency but capable beforehand of enriching a farm system in desperate need of help after years of dealing away its most valuable pieces.
That’s a lot to unpack.
As Passan mentions, Bryant is under contract for two more seasons after 2019. With Scott Boras being his agent, though, the odds of Bryant signing a contract extension with the Cubs before he hits free agency seem low. Something could obviously change before then, but Boras’ reputation makes that rather unlikely.
Thus, the Cubs are stuck in a precarious position. They could hold onto Bryant, ride out their current championship window and attempt to re-sign him when he hits free agency, assuming they’ll be interested in doing so. Like Bryce Harper and the Nationals last offseason, though, there’s a high-chance Bryant-Boras seek a mega-contract that causes the Cubs to make a tough decision with their roster.
Therefore, at least entertaining trade offers for Bryant makes sense. This doesn’t mean they should or will trade him, but if a team offers a ransom for Bryant, the Cubs would be unwise not to listen. And as Passan noted, the Cubs farm system needs an upgrade.
Out of all the players on the Cubs active roster, whom would net more in a trade than Bryant? One can make a case for Javier Báez, and for good reason. But Bryant’s resume — three-time All-Star, former MVP — speaks for itself. So, trading Bryant would bring in prospects to extend the Cubs’ championship window, also freeing up salary cap space to re-sign Báez to the lucrative extension that he’s trending towards getting.
If the Cubs were to trade Bryant, though, it would be a major blow to their current core group. You don’t lose a superstar player and become better in the short-term. Bryant offers the Cubs numerous valuable skillsets, such as his plate discipline, power, defensive versatility, baserunning and more. His value goes well beyond the box score, though it certainly is seen there, too.
The 2018 season is a prime example of how valuable Bryant is to the Cubs. The team won 95 games without his everyday presence in the lineup; where would the team had been had Bryant been healthy all season?
Should the Cubs trade Bryant this offseason, we might look back on it in the future as a stellar move. Perhaps a trade would net major pieces that lead the way to the next Cubs championship team. The opposite very well could happen, too. Point being, there's no way to know what's best for the team moving forward without exploring every option. At the very least, the Cubs are right to do their due diligence.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.