Is the grievance that Kris Bryant has filed with the MLBPA against the Cubs over alleged service time manipulation the beginning of the end of his tenure in Chicago? That seems to be a hot topic on Cubs Twitter lately, so I thought I’d address it this morning.
I've very much convinced myself that my ideal outcome at 3B this off-season for the Cubs is to trade Kris Bryant for the biggest haul they can get and sign Mike Moustakas.
— IDontCareAboutTheLuxuryTaxCountTommy (@FullCountTommy) November 6, 2019
Though the Cubs are the target of the hearing, Bryant appears to be merely making a statement on behalf of his union that baseball needs to recognize front offices are gaming the game, so to speak. By keeping players in the minors in order to gain an additional year before star players reach arbitration and free agency, teams save a great deal of money while advancing the age at which those players hit the open market. As we have seen over the last three years, rosters are getting younger, and analytics that correlate age with regression are squeezing their potential earning power.
Quickly recapping, Bryant was the team’s best player coming out of Spring Training in 2015, but was sent to Iowa to work on his fielding while the Cubs chose instead to give the starting position to Mike Olt. Olt split time at third base with Tommy La Stella, Arismendy Alcantara, and Chris Coghlan during the first 10 games of the season before fracturing his wrist on a hit-by-pitch. Bryant was recalled on April 17, assuming the starting position for the remainder of the season. Olt never played for the Cubs again.
The Cubs were simply playing by the rules set forth in the current CBA by doing things the way they did, and, though one could say it reeks of ethical depravity, they did not violate the letter of the agreement. Being the big boys they are, Bryant and his agent Scott Boras know they are unlikely to win their case. I truly believe this is more about Team Bryant raising awareness and supporting the union. As late as this past season, teams were still working the system in their favor, and Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a great example. The White Sox would have stashed Eloy Jiménez in the minors at the start of the 2019 season had he not agreed to a contract that gave them control through the young star’s arbitration years.
If the Cubs win the hearing, and an announcement is expected ahead of the Winter Meetings next month, would Bryant feel enough contempt for the organization that he would want to play for any team but the Cubs? I highly doubt that’s the case. Bryant will surely have his pick of suitors once he becomes a free agent and will play for whichever team offers the right combination of salary and commitment to winning. That includes a potential return to the North Side. There is also the possibility that Theo Epstein can extend Bryant and appease him with a fat, long-term contract. In the meantime, he remains the Cubs’ best player, their best option by far at third base, and a key to getting back to the World Series before his contract expires.
Will the Cubs trade Bryant for fear of getting nothing for him if he elects free agency after the 2021 season? I suppose that’s possible, at least this year, unless the Cubs intend to pursue Anthony Rendon, Mike Moustakas, or Josh Donaldson this winter. If the player and the team are still at a stalemate heading into next season, and the Cubs find themselves out of contention by mid-summer, I’d bet they move Bryant then. But if the playoffs are within reach, the third baseman will likely stay until his contract expires, at which point the Cubs will either sign him as a free agent then or part ways, thanking him for his contributions.
And what are the chances that Bryant will finish his career in Chicago? I’d say that’s up to the Cubs. The former MVP and Rookie of the Year was allegedly offered an extension worth $200 million plus last winter, and rejected it. If you are looking for a contract comparison, Nolan Arenado received an eight-year extension worth $260 million from the Rockies earlier this year.
Today’s Theoretical KB Trade
Trying to match up with the Orioles on a Kris Bryant trade is impossible. They have a couple of premium prospects at the top of their farm systems, but they need to keep those guys and they have no business trading for Bryant right now coming off of consecutive 47 and 54 win seasons. I’ll take a stab at it regardless.
- Orioles get Bryant
- Cubs receive pitcher Hunter Harvey and outfielder Austin Hayes, plus minor league third baseman Ryan Mountcastle and pitcher Grayson Rodriguez, a couple million in cash, and Baltimore GM Dan Duquette agrees to fill the Cubs’ clubhouse soda machine for three years. Maybe Harvey becomes Jake Arietta II (incredibly doubtful), but Bryant is a heavy price to pay to basically go chips-in on the oft-injured and underperforming right hander. The Orioles, with Bryant as their lottery ticket, snap their two-year streak of losing 100+ games, going 63-99.
PS – I think Rutschman will be a bust.
Cubs News & Notes
- If you haven’t seen this video yet, ESPN baseball reporters Keith Law and Jeff Passan discuss whether or not the Cubs will or should trade Bryant.
- How about a scenario proposed by Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that has the Cubs trading Bryant to the Mets for Noah Syndergaard, Brandon Nimmo, and a prospect? What about Thor and outfielder Jeff McNeil instead? McNeil would give the Cubs the type of hitter the front office is seeking.
- If Bryant wins his grievance against the Cubs, Twins outfielder Byron Buxton has a reasonable service time complaint of his own to consider.
- The front office announced that manager David Ross will retain pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, hitting coach Anthony Iapoce, and catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello for the 2020 season. All will remain in the same roles as last season.
- The team also announced that quality assurance coach Chris Denorfia will not be retained.
- A sad takeaway from the Cubs 2019 season: A computer algorithm projected they’d miss the playoffs, Epstein dismissed it as junk science, and then the Cubs missed the playoffs.
ESPN’s Buster Olney indicates that it’s not a matter ofwhen, not if, Cleveland will trade shortstop Francisco Lindor, but when, and spells out four windows for the club to execute a deal before he becomes a free agent after the 2021 season (subscription to ESPN Insider required).
Joel Sherman of the NY Post poses a hypothetical Mookie Betts-for-Syndergaard trade between the Red Sox and Mets, with Boston then moving the stud starter to acquire younger players and further slash payroll.
A scenario exists where the Padres would consider signing both Rendon and Strasburg. This on top of the new (yet strikingly familiar) threads San Diego might unveil this weekend? Stop the presses.
For a team that has long lacked an identity, the brown and yellow look is distinctly Padres.https://t.co/1nvOhLPyU2
— Best Coast Sports Connection (@BCSportsConnect) November 8, 2019
They Said It
You can’t stop Yu Darvish, you can only hope to contain him.
Just for Rizzo.
— ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) November 7, 2019
Friday Walk Up Song
Jolene by Dolly Parton. Legend. I bet Yu is a big fan.