Josh Donaldson

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

The first domino of this offseason’s third base market has fallen.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, free agent Anthony Rendon is set to sign a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Texas Rangers were also linked to Rendon in recent days, but they’ll now have to shift their focus elsewhere. The other superstar free agent third baseman — Josh Donaldson — is reportedly drawing interest from the Rangers and Nationals, Rendon's former team.

The Braves, Donaldson's former team, are also in the market for a third baseman. This leads us to the Cubs and Kris Bryant. With Rendon off the board and Donaldson soon to follow, a potential trade market for the Cubs third baseman is growing clearer.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also were linked to Rendon, though they don’t necessarily need a third baseman with Justin Turner manning the hot corner. Their pursuit of Rendon points to how they’re willing to shift Turner off third base, however. Add them to the list of teams seeking third base help.

Add that all up, and you have four teams in the market for Donaldson. The Cubs aren’t guaranteed to trade Bryant, but they’ll soon find themselves with some leverage. For the three teams that don’t land Donaldson, the most logical move will be to inquire with the Cubs about trading for Bryant. The Nationals have already inquired about Bryant, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi.

Bryant’s unresolved service time case will be an issue in any potential negotiations. The difference between two years of control (if he loses) and one (if he wins) is big when it comes to his value. Even though they’ll have leverage over interested teams, the Cubs will yield stronger trade proposals for Bryant if he loses his case.

But, again, a trade is no certainty. What is certain is teams will be inquiring about Bryant in the not-so-distant future, once Donaldson chooses his free agent destination.

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Nolan Arenado's availability doesn't affect Kris Bryant's potential trade market

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USA TODAY

Nolan Arenado's availability doesn't affect Kris Bryant's potential trade market

Add another player to this offseason’s loaded third base market. Wednesday, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported the Rockies are willing to listen to trade inquiries on star third baseman Nolan Arenado.

In addition to Arenado, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is also potentially available for trade, based on several reports, while Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson are free agents.

Being “willing” to listen to trade inquires and seriously considering a deal are two very different things. Like the Cubs and Bryant, the Rockies would be foolish not to listen to inquiries regarding Arenado — or any of their players.

Arenado is a superstar and has averaged a .300/.362/.575 line, with 40 homers and 124 RBIs since 2015. Even playing in hitter-friendly Coors Field, that’s impressive. The 28-year-old has been an All-Star each of the past five years and has won seven-straight Gold Glove Awards.

In theory, Arenado’s availability affects the Cubs and Bryant’s trade market. Players like Arenado don’t grow on trees, and if teams want him bad enough, they could elect to pursue him rather than Bryant. This would take away suitors for the Cubs third baseman.

But in actuality, Arenado’s availability doesn’t change much for the Cubs.

Arenado signed a monster eight-year, $260 million deal with the Rockies in February. The Rockies may have to eat some of his salary in a trade, as it’s questionable if a team would take on Arenado’s full contract and give up a decent return package.

Example: when the Marlins dealt Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees in December 2017, Miami also sent $30 million to New York. In turn, the Yankees took on $260-$265 million of the $290 million left on Stanton’s contract, sending Starlin Castro and two prospects to Miami.

Arenado is much greater commitment than Bryant — both financially and in years. Bryant is projected to make $18.5 million in arbitration next season, a little more than half of Arenado’s $35 million salary.

There is a caveat with both players’ contract lengths. Arenado’s deal runs through 2026, but he can opt-out after 2021. Bryant is under contract through 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he’ll hit the open market next winter.

Arenado also has a full no-trade clause, which would complicate any possible negotiations. 

Teams will have to weigh acquiring Arenado and taking on his massive salary, all while considering how he may leave in free agency in two years. The latter is true about Bryant as well, but he's the more affordable player.

And, ultimately, numerous teams are seeking a third baseman this winter. Once Rendon and Donaldson sign, the focus will shift to Arenado and Bryant for the three teams that lose out. 

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How the Strasburg-Nationals megadeal impacts Kris Bryant trade market

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USA TODAY

How the Strasburg-Nationals megadeal impacts Kris Bryant trade market

SAN DIEGO — Before the clock struck noon on the first day of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings, we already had our first monster deal.

Stephen Strasburg is returning to the Washington Nationals on a seven-year, $245 million deal, per ESPN's Jeff Passan:

That's a huge domino to fall in the landscape of the MLB offseason, though it doesn't have any direct implications on the Cubs. However, it could indirectly impact how Theo Epstein's front office proceeds this winter.

The Cubs are in a bind financially again this offseason, so they haven't even been linked to Strasburg or any of the top free agent pitchers despite an opening in the rotation. Within the NL Central, the other four teams weren't expected to be in the bidding for Strasburg's services, either.

But the ripple effects from this move will be far-reaching. For starters, the defending-champion Nationals are confirmed to return the strongest top of the rotation in the league and this move assures they are not planning on taking a step back in 2020 or content to revel in their World Series hangover. Even though the Cubs are at a crossroads, they still expect to contend in 2020 and the Nationals will remain as a roadblock.

It also might mean a reunion with Anthony Rendon is unlikely in the nation's capital. With how much the Nationals just committed to Strasburg, it's hard to envision Mike Rizzo and Co. breaking the bank to bring back Rendon, as well. Sure, stranger things have happened, but it seems like the most likely scenario now is Rendon makes his home elsewhere next season.

That would bode well for the Cubs and their trade market for Kris Bryant. 

If the Nationals cannot afford to meet Rendon's asking price in free agency, they would still have a clear hole on the roster at third base that would need filling in a less expensive way. Bryant is projected to earn $18.5 million in arbitration next season and while that's a lofty salary, it should wind up far cheaper than what Rendon will be making. That might make a Cubs-Nationals trade pairing more likely.  

There are several other teams currently in the market for a high-end third baseman — Dodgers, Braves, Phillies, Rangers — and not all of them will sign Rendon or Josh Donaldson to fill that desire. For the teams that miss out on the top free agents at the hot corner (or those who don't want to commit that much money), the Cubs loom as an interesting fallback option with Bryant.

Of course, all of that is not necessarily good news for the Cubs fans who don't want to see Bryant traded, but if the team is going to deal him, they'd be better served having multiple teams in the bidding. That might be the only way some team actually meets the asking price for the former NL MVP. 

Positioning at least three teams — led by the Nationals — potentially interested in adding an impact third baseman via trade this winter should enhance the Bryant market. 

670 The Score's Bruce Levine reported Monday afternoon the Cubs have had talks with the Phillies about Bryant:

The service time grievance is still looming over Bryant and nobody is sure exactly when the resolution will come. If the arbiter rules in Bryant's favor, he would actually only have one season left of club control before free agency (though that's still not the expected outcome). 

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