Many of you said that wasn’t enough for KB, and you are probably correct. Some suggested asking the Braves to include center fielder Ender Inciarte in the deal, and that might work.
A couple of weeks after I posted that proposal, it was revealed that Bryant’s four-year-old grievance regarding service time manipulation would be heard, with a decision hopefully coming within a few weeks.
If Bryant wins that grievance, it will have wide-ranging effects across baseball, and it’s not my purpose here to go into that. The effect on Bryant is key, though, because if he wins it the Cubs will have one less year of team control. The number of years of control might make a difference for whoever wants to trade for Bryant.
For the purposes of this article I am going to assume that Bryant’s current status is intact and he won’t become a free agent until after 2021.
The Braves still seem a good fit and Fried and Inciarte would be a good return for him. Inciarte could slide in and play center field for the Cubs and lead off. He did miss the end of the 2019 season with a hamstring injury, but should be 100 percent for spring training. In his four years in Atlanta, Inciarte has posted a .342 on-base percentage. You might say that’s a bit low for a leadoff man and you’d be right, but it would still be a vast improvement over the MLB-low .294 OBP posted out of the leadoff spot in 2019 by Cubs hitters.
Let’s expand this deal a bit more. With Inciarte, who is 29 years old, the Cubs would no longer need Albert Almora Jr. So how about sending Almora to Atlanta and asking for Bryse Wilson to be included in the deal? Wilson is a righthander who turns 22 in December and who has been one of the Braves’ top prospects for the last couple of seasons. He was also a Top 100 MLB prospect by all three major services who report that (Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and Major League Baseball).
The Braves would get a MVP candidate and (at the very least) a solid defensive fourth outfielder. The Cubs would get a starting pitcher, a starting center fielder and a young pitcher who could slide into either the rotation or bullpen going forward.
Here’s how this deal, if made, might affect the Cubs’ finances.
Both Almora and Bryant are arbitration-eligible in 2020 and MLB Trade Rumors estimates the two would total $20.3 million in salary for next season.
Fried and Wilson are both pre-arb for the next two seasons and under team control for five seasons (through 2024). Fried has one option year remaining; Wilson, two.
Inciarte is under contract for $7.7 million for 2020 and $8.7 million for 2021, with a team option for $9 million for 2022 ($1.02 million buyout).
The Braves have just two players under contract for 2020 making more than Inciarte: Freddie Freeman ($22,359,375) and Mark Melancon ($14 million). They can certainly afford Bryant. Of course, Atlanta could re-sign their own free-agent third baseman, Josh Donaldson, but Bryant is six years younger than Donaldson and could be a long-term solution at third base for the Braves.
So right there the Cubs have saved about $12 million in 2020 salary.
However, they’ll need to replace Bryant at third base. No, it won’t be David Bote, who is much better positioned to be a bench player. And it won’t be Anthony Rendon, either, because the Cubs are simply not going to spend that kind of money this winter. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts:
“It’s not about how much you spend,” Ricketts said. “It’s about how much you win. The correlation between spending and winning isn’t nearly as strong as we’d like it to be in a sense. Obviously, the top couple teams in the league (in payroll) didn’t make the playoffs. We spent more than every team that made the playoffs, probably a couple of them combined. Even if you really thought spending was the answer, the free-agent market is always fraught.
”It’s always a high-risk thing ... The fact is if you want to outspend everyone and try to win, you start bumping into the luxury tax, which this year we’ll pay several million dollars to the league, which is just kind of a dead-weight loss that goes to the other teams. And on top of that, if you do it for too long, the fees go up. And if you do it for too much, then you lose draft picks. Ultimately, it’s great to have the financial resources that we do. It’s an advantage, and there’s no doubt about it.”
Read between the lines: No, the Cubs are not going to go on a spending spree this winter.
However, they very well could afford to sign Mike Moustakas. Moustakas threw away quite a bit of money over the last couple of years, first turning down a qualifying offer of $17.4 million from the Royals in 2018 before signing back with them for what eventually amounted to about $8 million, then after he was traded to the Brewers, declined his $15 million option for 2019 thinking he’d get more. Instead, the Brewers got him for $7 million for this past season. Moustakas again turned down a mutual option for 2020 that would have paid him $11 million and headed to free agency for the third straight year.
Moustakas put up a 3.2 bWAR season in 2019 and has hit 101 home runs over the last three seasons. He’s a perfectly capable third baseman who just turned 30. And, he hits lefthanded, which would give new manager David Ross some lineup flexibility
I’d propose the Cubs offer Moustakas a two-year, $25 million deal with another mutual option for 2022. This would just about equalize the money from the trade for 2020, but might give the Cubs some payroll relief in 2021. And, they’d have a better pitching staff and a leadoff man out of the trade.
Caveat: Scott Boras is Moustakas’ agent, so who knows what Moose will wind up asking for.
I have no inside info, just a hunch: Kris Bryant won’t be a Chicago Cub in 2020, he’ll be traded. The Cubs could get good value out of a deal like this. Get it done, Theo.
Trading Kris Bryant and Albert Almora Jr. for Max Fried, Ender Inciarte and Bryse Wilson, then signing Mike Moustakas to play third base...
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Great idea! Good return for these players
No way! Not enough
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