The hot stove has been more of a tepid stove in recent years. Regardless of the terminology, we're into the MLB offseason and teams are going to make a litany of transactions. We'll examine them through as many lenses as need be in the coming weeks and months.
In this very space, let's talk about fits for Cubs star third baseman Kris Bryant. The three-time All-Star and 2016 MVP might be on the trade block this offseason. More accurate: The Cubs are willing to listen to offers on anyone. This doesn't mean they are shopping him or even want to listen to offers.
But Bryant could be moved, so we wanted to run through all 30 teams and look at the best landing spot(s) for the 2016 ML MVP.
Now, there's a complication here with Bryant's grievance with the Cubs that was filed through the MLBPA for service-time manipulation. Should Bryant win his grievance, he'll be a free agent after next season. Should he lose -- that would be my guess -- he'll be a free agent after 2021.
Bryant is set to make around $18.5 million through arbitration this coming season (via MLBTR projections) and the hunch is, assuming he loses his grievance, he'll be around $25 million in 2021.
We need to keep in mind while Bryant is a third baseman by trade, he can also handle himself fine in either corner outfield spot or first base. With that in mind, let's see where he could fit.
No chance, rebuild
Orioles, Tigers, Royals, Marlins, Pirates
There's no reason to trade what the Cubs would want for one or two years of Bryant for these teams. I don't see the need to rank them. Order them however you want, there's a zero percent chance Bryant is traded to any of these five teams.
The have started to build a foundation with young talent a farm system and it would make no sense to do something like adding Bryant for just two years while trading away something the Cubs would like in return. But with Jerry Dipoto, you just never know.
Likely won't pay his salary
The Rockies went 71-91 and have tons of holes. It's hard to see them taking on Bryant to play him at first for two years at a high cost.
They just let Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith walk while moving on from Bruce Bochy to Gabe Kapler at manager. A big transition phase is looming. Next.
The Indians refused to pay for outfield help last season and if they are going to increase payroll, they would instead look to try and extend Francisco Lindor -- whose free agent timeline is the same as Bryant.
With Mike Moustakas headed out and no one having any idea what is coming from Travis Shaw, Bryant would be quite the fit. The Brewers, however, won't be looking to add this much payroll and also don't have enough in the farm to compete with some other suitors, should Bryant actually be available. Let's not overlook that the Brewers would likely to have to "overpay" to get Bryant away from the Cubs, given that both teams are expecting to compete for the NL Central title.
Bryant would absolutely help this team and they'd find a way to shuffle things around enough to fit him in. Not at this salary, though.
Again, this requires a move to left field with Matt Chapman at third, but he would fit. It's just that we're aware of the history here and Bryant at this point in his career is the kind of player the A's trade away, not for.
Eugenio Suarez isn't moving from third, but Bryant could fit in left field. The Reds are expected to be aggressive, too, but they aren't just one piece away and this move would probably take all they had this offseason. It just doesn't line up.
17. Blue Jays
We saw the Jays' unveil talented legacies in Cavan Biggio (2B), Bo Bichette (SS) and Vladimir Guerrero (3B) last season and the offensive future looks bright. They desperately need pitching and there is a lot more talent on the way in a fruitful farm system. There is, however, wiggle room if the Jays decided to try this (they won't). Vlad Jr. could move to first, as most scouts think is an eventuality anyway, giving the Blue Jays one of the most exciting infields in baseball, now with a veteran leader who has won a World Series. The Blue Jays could do this financially, too.
This does not, however, add pitching and the Jays might not be ready to contend in the next two seasons before Bryant hits free agency.
First off, the Twins need to address the pitching staff a lot more than the historic offense they ran out there last season. Secondly, let's again point out they wouldn't simply be signing Bryant for two years and something like $43 million. If that was the case, they'd surely look at it. It would be adding this kind of deal while coughing up a pretty substantial package in return. Not seeing it.
The Cardinals are not expected to make a big splash this offseason and this certainly would be a big splash. An intriguing case here is that Dexter Fowler has two years and $33 million left on his deal. He also is still greatly loved in Wrigleyville while the Cubs have been unable to replace him either in center field or in the leadoff spot. Would he be rejuvenated in a return to the North Side? It's possible. The Cubs would save money and obviously with the gap in the two players, would also surely come away with at least one high-impact prospect as part of the package with Fowler. The Cardinals would then have Bryant at third with Tommy Edman, Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader and Jose Martinez for three outfield spots.
Realistically, though? Any conversations here end at an impasse. I don't think the Cardinals could give enough to make it work. Sure, Fowler is loved, but the Cubs let him walk after a Game 7 home run. Why would they all of a sudden become emotional in 2019?
14. White Sox
On the White Sox end, this would require moving Yoan Moncada to second base, but how dynamic is Moncada-Tim Anderson-Bryant going 2B-SS-3B?
The reasons I'm skeptical this would work is that the White Sox surely don't want to cough up big-league-ready talent and that's surely what the Cubs want. Bryant isn't a salary dump candidate. This seems like it would be to the benefit of the White Sox, so the only way it works is if the Cubs actually are planning on dumping Bryant in order to do something like pursue Anthony Rendon. If it works, great, but they'd have to be really sure and line the two moves up perfectly. That seems very unlikely with a player like Rendon.
Another complicated one! Our own R.J. Anderson has reported that the Astros are worried about salary and might have to deal George Springer and/or Carlos Correa. Springer, you say? Hmmm. He's a better fit for the Cubs and his free agency lines up with Bryant's. Now, that would actually add payroll to the Astros, but is there a way for Jeff Luhnow to deal Correa and then feel better about his team with whatever he gets for Correa with Bryant at third and Alex Bregman at short? It's possible.
I wouldn't bet anything on it. It's probably more fun to talk about.
How does this infield look, Mets fans?
1B: Pete Alonso
2B: Jeff McNeil
SS: Amed Rosario
3B: Kris Bryant
It's a beaut, Clark! It's a beaut!
Now, how does it get there? Would the Cubs take Noah Syndergaard straight up? If so, my hunch is the Mets do that and the Cubs could use the savings of around $9 million to try and improve the club elsewhere.
There are complications. Bryant has a lot more value and I don't believe the money difference makes up for it. Also, the Mets are sitting on Robinson Cano and $81 million of his remaining $96 million over four years. It's hard to see the Wilpons take kindly to just eating that money on a bench player and Cano certainly doesn't want to sit on the bench.
So how would the Mets unload Cano while pulling off this move? I just don't think they can.
11. Red Sox
It can be fun to play around with lineups and defensive alignments in some of these cases. With J.D. Martinez having not opted out of his deal, the Red Sox are in luxury tax limbo. Mookie Betts is one year away from free agency and is estimated to be making around $9 million more than Bryant in 2020. The Cubs could get away with Betts in center while leading him off and it's an amazing fit. The Red Sox could play Bryant in right.
Would this work as a one-for-one challenge trade? If Bryant loses his grievance, he has more value with the two years left, but do the Red Sox want to deal with the salary issue again next offseason?
As the category says, it's complicated.
I would love adding Bryant to this offense. He could play left behind Fernando Tatis and Manny Machado and it would make for a dynamic top of the order. The problem is the Padres aren't looking to "spend big" this offseason and if they spend a lot of prospect capital in the trade market, it'll be for pitching.
All indications are that the Braves won't be spending big to replace Donaldson should they not be able to retain him. They've been connected with Mike Moustakas, in fact, and while he has power, that's about it.
It's a shame, too, after two straight NL East titles, that the Braves won't let the purse strings out a bit. Bryant would be such a perfect fit here. Austin Riley looked great for a few weeks last season and maybe now in 2020 he's ready to breakout as the long-term fixture at third base. If that's the case, great! Bryant can play a corner outfield spot alongside Ronald Acuna and Nick Markakis with Ender Inciarte and Adam Duvall as bench options. Bryant could spell Freddie Freeman at first base, too.
Sure, Bryant is only signed for two more seasons at big money, but the Braves just had Donaldson for one season at big money. It worked well. The window to win is wide open now the Braves. There's no reason to hold anything back. Unfortunately, it looks like that's a possibility.
Would be in, if things break right
We've already heard about the Angels' desire to go hard after Gerrit Cole as some of their hefty financial commitments aside from Mike Trout are starting to go away here within the next few years. Surely the Angels would love to talk about Bryant. The only concern is one we've noted above and that the factor that Bryant isn't a salary dump candidate. If the Angels aren't willing to part with MLB talent or top prospect Jo Adell, that's probably a road block here. You never know, though.
Hey, let's play matchmaker between Bryant and childhood/adulthood buddy Bryce Harper again! It was a favorite pastime of Cubs fans for years, so why stop now? The Phillies absolutely have room at third base and on the payroll for Bryant. The only question would be if they could give the Cubs something of value in return other than taking on salary and I'm just not sure. The Phillies need pitching more than Bryant, so this isn't a exceptional fit.
As my colleague Mike Axisa noted in a must-read piece for all Diamondbacks fans, the D-Backs have some room to make serious noise this offseason. They have the prospect and financial wherewithal to get a deal done for Bryant. This would require Eduardo Escobar moving to second base, which is fine, or Bryant playing right field (again, this is fine).
The question here is: After letting A.J. Pollock walk and trading Paul Goldschmidt last offseason in addition to trading Zack Greinke in July, do the D-Backs really want to be so aggressive for two expensive years of Bryant right now? I can see arguments for both sides.
The Rangers were unable to fill the huge void left by Adrian Beltre at third base last season and are looking to be big spenders in free agency this offseason. Third base is a target, but what if they miss on both Rendon and Josh Donaldson? I could see them driving hard for Bryant. It would be a tough match, since the Cubs aren't rebuilding and the Rangers top trade pieces are prospects still in the lower levels of the minors, but there could eventually be a match.
Given that they just won the World Series, the Nationals won't sit idly by if they lose Anthony Rendon to free agency. No team is in greater "win now" mode than the defending champs, which means it might be time to see if they'll overpay -- assuming Rendon and probably Donaldson are both off the market.
With Didi Gregorius gone via free agency, Gleyber Torres takes over at shortstop while D.J. LeMahieu moves to second on a full-time basis. Given what we saw the Yankees do with so many injuries last season, we know they have a wealth of big-league ready players that might be of interest to the Cubs and we also know the Yankees can handle taking on money. This isn't a perfect match, but it's a pretty decent one.
This one is easy. Let's bullet-point it:
- The Dodgers have made the playoffs seven straight years, won two pennants in that stretch, but have zero World Series titles. They should be going all out.
- Reports have indicated Justin Turner is fine with moving to second in order to sign Rendon. If they miss on Rendon (and Donaldson, let's suppose), they could zero in on Bryant.
- The Dodgers have an excellent farm system and lots of young, big-league ready talent.
- The Dodgers can take on plenty of money.
That's a fit.
The Best Fit
There's a big gap here, too, in my view. The more I sifted through all the information and reporting available, the more I just don't see a realistic option where 1) the Cubs deal Bryant and 2) it makes the Cubs a better team right now. Sure, I could go with one of the so-called "salary dump" deals and say the Cubs land Rendon as a replacement. That would make them better. Would Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and company actually be able to line that up, though? For me, that's the only way trading Bryant makes sense for the immediate future.