There’s been all sorts of kerfuffle all over the internet over the last few days over a report by Buster Olney that the Cubs would consider trading Kris Bryant.
I had my say about that report and what it means the other day.
The Cubs are not going to trade Kris Bryant. I’m so certain of that, that the previous sentence doesn’t include any qualifiers like “likely” or “probably.” They won’t. Theo Epstein’s quote from this Tribune article sums it up for me:
“I answered a general question about whether we have untouchables,” the Cubs president said. “Like most every organization, we will listen to anything, but that’s just an operating philosophy.
“We are lucky to have some impact players and we are looking to add to them, not subtract.”
All right, so now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s do a thought exercise. If the Cubs did “listen to anything” on Kris Bryant, what would be a reasonable trade in which both teams got roughly equivalent value?
It wouldn’t be a deal for prospects, not even “big-league ready” prospects. Kris Bryant, though he had a down year in 2018 due to injury, is an established All-Star and possible MVP candidate. You’re not going to get that kind of value for “prospects,” not even if it includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Eloy Jimenez or Victor Robles or someone else near the top of the 2018 Top 100 Prospect list.
Beyond that, trading Bryant would leave a gaping hole at third base. Sure, you could play David Bote there, but that would leave a hole at second base and Bote, while he appears to be a capable big-league player, is not Kris Bryant.
Bryant is under team control for three more seasons, thanks to the Cubs keeping him at Triple-A Iowa for an extra two weeks in 2015. (This is neither the time nor place to discuss that; suffice to say that service time will be a top subject in the next MLB/MLBPA labor negotiations.) He made $10.85 million in 2018. He’s on target to make somewhere around $13 million in 2019.
I guess I’ll just get right to it. Why not trade Bryant to the Rockies for Nolan Arenado?
Arenado made $17.75 million in 2018. MLB Trade Rumors estimates he could make as much as $26 million in 2019, though that seems a little high. Then Arenado is a free agent after 2019. So this would give the Rockies three years’ worth of cost certainty in exchange for one. It would be a risk on the Cubs’ part, because if they couldn’t extend Arenado, they’ve given up a lot for one year’s performance.
It seems as if Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, is going to send KB to free agency no matter what the Cubs offer him in terms of an extension. There have been rumors that the Cubs have done so and been rebuffed, though Theo Epstein has not been specific about this. Arenado once also had Boras as an agent, but three years ago switched to the Wasserman group. Cubs players represented by Wasserman include Javier Baez, Brandon Morrow, Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks. Perhaps they would be more open to an extension with Arenado than Boras would be with Bryant.
Since the Cubs would be swapping three years’ worth of team control for one year in a deal like this. perhaps the Rockies would be willing to send a young pitcher along in the deal, someone else with a few years of team control remaining. Antonio Senzatela might fill the bill here. He’s been a starter with Colorado but might be a good fit in the Cubs bullpen. Maybe the Cubs ask the Rockies to take Brandon Kintzler’s contract to even up the money a bit, at least for 2019.
Often, when people speak of acquiring a Rockies player, I issue a “Coors Field caution” due to its effect on hitting. It is true that Arenado’s career numbers away from Coors (.263/.318/.469) aren’t that appealing. This is a risk, no doubt. On the other hand, Arenado is hands-down the best fielding third baseman in the game, winner of the Gold Glove every year he’s been in the big leagues, six in all. The Cubs do prize defense, and Arenado’s defense would be a big help to the Cubs pitching staff.
As I said, this is mainly a thought exercise. The Cubs aren’t trading Kris Bryant. But if they did, this might be a deal that would provide roughly equivalent value.
Would you do it?
Kris Bryant (and Brandon Kintzler) for Nolan Arenado (and Antonio Senzatela)
This poll is closed
Great! Get it done, Theo!
No way. Bryant stays!
Some other deal would be better (leave in comments)