Didi Gregorius

Two MLB moves that changed the landscape of Kris Bryant's trade market

Two MLB moves that changed the landscape of Kris Bryant's trade market

Two reported transactions Tuesday may not have drawn much attention from Cubs fans, but both directly impact the North Siders.

First, The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya reported the Angels are trading third baseman Zack Cozart to the Giants for cash and a player to be named later. Soon thereafter, free agent shortstop Didi Gregorius agreed to a one-year deal with the Phillies, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported.

From a Cubs perspective, the Angels' and Phillies' moves impact a potential Kris Bryant trade market. According to Ardaya, the Giants are picking up the remaining $12.67 million on Cozart’s deal. This clears payroll space for Los Angeles to make a run at a superstar free agent, like third basemen Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson.

The Phillies inquired with the Cubs regarding a potential Bryant trade, according to multiple reports. However, Bryant’s unresolved grievance case is a holdup in any trade talks, should the Cubs entertain offers. If he wins, he'll become a free agent next winter. If he loses, he'll remain under team control through 2021.

Gregorius will slot into shortstop for Philadelphia, while incumbent Jean Segura will move to second base, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury. The Phillies are less likely to pursue Bryant — should the Cubs shop him — than they were entering Tuesday. Things can change, but they have less of an infield need as they did on Monday.

On the other hand, the Angels and new manager Joe Maddon suddenly could be a candidate to pursue Bryant. Acquiring him would bring less certainty than Rendon or Donaldson, as Bryant is only under contract for two seasons more, max. Furthermore, acquiring Bryant will cost the Angels prospect capital, while adding Rendon and Donaldson will 'only' entail paying them handsomely as free agents.

In short, Philadelphia is less likely to pursue Bryant than they were entering Tuesday; the possibility of the Angels doing so is stronger than it was entering the day. The Angels haven't been directly connected to Bryant at this point, but that now could change.

Cubs free agent focus: Didi Gregorius

Cubs free agent focus: Didi Gregorius

With Hot Stove season underway, NBC Sports Chicago is taking a look at some of MLB’s top free agents and how they’d fit with the Cubs.

Is the answer to the Cubs’ search for more second base production signing a quality shortstop in Didi Gregorius?

Gregorius had a down 2019 with the Yankees in which he posted a .238/.276/.441 slash line and 87 OPS+. Those figures are the lowest of his five-year Yankees tenure and a far cry from the .274/.319/.447 line and 104 OPS+ he averaged from 2015-18. The 29-year-old also finished with -6 Defensive Runs Saved, the second-worst total (granted, in a smaller sample size) of his eight-year big-league career.

Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last offseason, one explanation for his struggles. The injury kept him out until June, meaning he missed spring training and didn’t have a normal buildup to the season.

Javier Báez is entrenched as the Cubs shortstop, but second base is a question mark. The Cubs have a plethora of options already on the roster, none of whom have the position locked down going into 2020.

Following his surprise call-up in September, Nico Hoerner proved he should be a big part of the Cubs next season. That’ll come at second base or center field, and the Cubs made sure to play Hoerner at both spots throughout 2019 in preparation for next season.

Hoerner very well may open 2020 as the starting second baseman, but the Cubs haven’t made that determination yet.

“We don’t ever draw it up that a player’s gonna skip Triple-A," Cubs president Theo Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference. "It’s not determined yet where Nico’s gonna start next season, but given his mental makeup, given his skillset, who he is as a person, we felt that [his September promotion] was something under the extraordinary circumstances that he could handle. I think it’s important that player development continues at the major-league level.”

Besides Hoerner, other Cubs second basemen include David Bote, Daniel Descalso, Ian Happ and Tony Kemp. There’s no shortage of options, though none are guaranteed to be the starter.

A normal 2019-20 offseason will bode well for Gregorius, but his 2019 performance may hurt him in free agency. He may need to take a short-term deal this winter, possibly even a one-year pact, to reestablish his value.

Gregorius will have suitors on the open market as a shortstop. He’s been linked to the Phillies, who recently hired Joe Girardi — Gregorius’ former manager with the Yankees.

Would Gregorius join the Cubs to play second base? Very unlikely, but as they search for more production from the position, the Cubs could think outside of the box and gauge his interest in signing on to be Báez’s double play partner.

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