Last week, there was finally a ruling on the five-plus-year-old Kris Bryant/MLBPA grievance that was filed against the Cubs for service-time manipulation. Most assumed the Cubs would win because it's really tough to prove with evidence that the Cubs held Bryant in the minors just a few days in 2015 in bad faith simply to gain an extra year of team control even though most of us with common sense can see exactly what was happening.
Still, the path is more clear than ever for a Bryant deal, right?
Something to keep in mind regarding Bryant is he's set to make $18.6 million this coming season and that'll go well over $20 million in 2021 in his final arbitration go-round. His agent is Scott Boras, so an extension feels unlikely.
Let's take a look at some teams that realistically could swing a trade for Bryant before the 2020 season.
Bryant is an upgrade over Gio Urshela at third base. Bryant's addition would allow Urshela to thrive in a utility bench role. Maybe as part of the package the Cubs take Miguel Andujar and hope he's more 2018 than 2019. Regardless, the Yankees haven't done much aside from the monster Gerrit Cole deal and maybe they don't need to do more, but it never hurts to pile on. There's a fit here. Why not make it a full go "eff you" offseason, Mr. Cashman?
I really liked the Rangers for Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson but they went cheap and grabbed Todd Frazier instead. Frazier is no reason to avoid looking into Bryant when either could flip to a different position (Frazier to 1B would be the play). How perfectly would Bryant fit in front of Joey Gallo in that offense?
If the Nationals' ownership allows them to take on the money, this is a beautiful fit for the champs and the Cubs. There's a significant void left at third with Anthony Rendon signing with the Angels and Victor Robles playing center field and leading off is a near-ideal scenario for the Cubs if they have to move Bryant. Obviously more pieces would need to head to the Cubs, but this is a nice starting point.
The Phillies have done some big work the past few offseasons while hoping to return to the playoffs, but the end result to this point is kind of a half-measure. Bryant would go a long way in solidifying that offense into a powerhouse alongside Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and, oh yes, Bryant's childhood friend, Bryce Harper. Do the Phillies have enough to give the Cubs back? That's likely the biggest obstacle here.
Gone is Josh Donaldson and the Braves' window to win is right now. The Marcell Ozuna deal wasn't so big that the Braves should stop spending money and they could afford to send a package centered around Austin Riley (3B) and several young, MLB-ready pitchers. It's a great fit, but we can't be sure the Braves' ownership will allow them to take on more payroll. Otherwise they would've gone harder for Donaldson, no?
This would possibly involve Bryant being OK with playing outfield full-time, as Manny Machado is entrenched at third. If this was worked through, the Padres are a great fit. There's also the possibility of moving Fernando Tatis to center and Machado to shortstop (more on that here). The Padres were known to be after Betts, which means they are OK with taking on a huge short-term salary and coughing up big-time prospects in the process. An added bonus for those who care about such matters? Bryant played in San Diego in college.
The calculus has changed here. A few months ago, I thought there was no chance of a match here, but it's possible there's a package that swaps Bryant and Arenado. Maybe even straight up? Both players could welcome a change in scenery. If Arenado is angry and wants out, surely he'd love to play for the Cubs while Bryant would likely welcome playing half his home games in Coors for two years heading to free agency. This would be something else, wouldn't it?
Or what if the ...
... just held onto him?
The Cubs were in first place last season as late as Aug. 22 and were only two games out with two weeks to play. Was it a flawed team incapable of winning the World Series? For sure. But there were a lot of problems that might not be there this year. Perhaps Joe Maddon's voice had gone stale in the clubhouse and the change to popular David Ross helps some issues. Addison Russell was never specifically said to be a distraction, but maybe he was? This is mostly the same team that was in playoff position before collapsing in the last two weeks (without Javier Baez, by the way). Why trade your best player? There's a legitimate argument to be made that the best move for the Cubs is no move at all. Then if they aren't contending in July, there might well be more motivated teams to deal for Bryant.