clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Here’s a Kris Bryant trade idea. It would bring two good prospects to the Cubs.

New, 54 comments

The Cubs third baseman might wind up with another team this winter. Here’s one thought, found on Twitter.

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant will be a free agent after 2021. He’ll be expensive to keep via arbitration next season, so it’s logical that the Cubs might be thinking about trading him. It might not be easy, given his poor 2020 and injuries, but here’s an idea from a Blue Jays fan I found via Twitter:

A few years ago, trading Bryant for two unestablished players would have been unthinkable. Having ownership toss in money to get the job done would have been "insult to injury." How players are valued is being adjusted, as if a window's view is shifting in front of us. What used to be protocol is no longer so, as Bryant's time before free agency wanes.

Baseball evolves. What used to happen may be outdated. Things yet to be considered will be standard practice in 20 years. The "opener" was mocked when first introduced. Tampa Bay shimmied it to Game 6 of the World Series. Pitchers in the early 1970s regularly pitched into the eighth or ninth innings. At the same time, Bobby Wine and Dal Maxvill were starting shortstops, though they could not hit, pretty much at all. Coincidence or not? Two of the chief proponents of "valuing future wins more than present wins" in the early 2010s were the Astros and the Cubs. Mocked routinely at the time, they traveled an unpopular path to popularity and a "piece of metal,” though Houston’s was apparently achieved through cheating.

Teams now tend to consider prospect types rather favorably. We both know that many prospects wash out, but in a baseball budgetary period such as we're in right now, long-term cost-controlled players can be perceived as having more value than a shorter term player, as team values. If Bryant isn't sticking around, his entire value is tied up in his 2021 value, linked with any compensation the Cubs might receive.

As for the above trade? I doubt the Blue Jays would do it. However, they are one of a few teams that might consider themselves "on the cusp" enough to make a trade of "future for present." Those are the teams to start with in any Bryant trade. In my previous talks about Bryant trades, I'd targeted the Mets. Why? Because I thought their general manager, who has since been fired, was on thin ice.

As to the trade specifics in the tweet, catcher Alejandro Kirk had more walks than strikeouts every step of the Toronto minor league pipeline, and packs some pop into his 5-8 265 frame. Adding Kirk would give the Cubs more flexibility if trading Victor Caratini or Willson Contreras, as well. My guess is Kirk would be a bat-first non-terrible defender. He did get into nine big-league games in 2020, going 9-for-24 with two doubles and a home run.

Patrick Murphy went to high school with Cody Bellinger in Chandler, Arizona. In a rather short stint out of the Jays bullpen in 2020, Murphy wasn't too bad (four games, six innings, 1.50 ERA, 2.52 FIP, 1.333 WHIP). The entire idea of 'getting major pieces for Bryant in trade' has largely gone away. As teams value team control more than before, getting two fifty-fifty types might be the return on Bryant. Murphy and Kirk will enter 2021 with option seasons galore, and trips to Iowa (or some other city) possible.

The expectation is to read a few "Who are they?" comments with this sort of a trade idea. The reality is, the ability of the player is more important than a fan's awareness or lack thereof. Kyle Hendricks was largely an unknown, when acquired. Edwin Jackson was a trumpeted signing. The production matters, not the advanced billing. Criticism built on a lack of awareness is a curious place to assess a trade.

One final reason I dig this trade idea (the idea is different from the trade actually taking place) is the concept of Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts giving Theo Epstein enough money to pay off part of a player's contract to increase a trade return. It might work, or it might not, but few other avenues still exist for turbo-charging prospect acquisition. The draft and international arenas have tightly regulated spending limits. Paying off a bit of a veteran's deal is a way to add quality.

A perfectly acceptable take is, something like this trade, but not this, specifically. I doubt this is the trade, if Bryant is sent elsewhere. On the other hand, the premise of other teams assessing a name player based on his prior peak value seems to have faded from baseball’s executive offices. In trades, it’s now about future value against cost to the team. Adding two players for Bryant with unfamiliar pasts is a very possible result. What the executives expect as value in the future matters more in trade likelihood than player familiarity or popularity.

Poll

Do you think Tom Ricketts will add money to a trade if it brings more talent in the swap?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Yes
    (353 votes)
  • 6%
    Not since 2016
    (71 votes)
  • 22%
    Not in a pandemic
    (231 votes)
  • 35%
    No
    (357 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (5 votes)
1017 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Does Kris Bryant plus $5 million for Alejandro Kirk and Patrick Murphy work for you?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Yes
    (266 votes)
  • 40%
    No
    (384 votes)
  • 31%
    Not specifically, but getting MLB-level prospects seems useful
    (304 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (6 votes)
960 votes total Vote Now