The Cubs, just a couple months from the end of a bitterly disappointing campaign, may be on their way to an offseason shakeup. The club has been “aggressive,” “manic,” “motivated” and “obvious” in its effort to trade someone, executives have told Jeff Passan of ESPN.com.
The possibility of a trade involving first baseman Anthony Rizzo has looked out of the question to this point, but even the franchise favorite might not be off-limits, according to Passan, who names third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras as other possible chips for Chicago.
Rizzo’s on the heels of yet another excellent offensive season, in which he slashed .293/.405/.520 with 27 home runs in 613 plate appearances. The 30-year-old is controllable for the next two seasons by way of affordable club options, and has already said he hopes to sign a new contract with the Cubs. So far, though, there hasn’t been any scuttlebutt regarding a new deal between the two sides.
Pound for pound, Bryant’s likely the best player of the three, but there’s wariness toward him from other clubs in regards to his team control, per Passan. As of now, Bryant’s still under wraps for two more years via arbitration, but the former NL MVP will become a free agent next winter if he wins a grievance against the Cubs for allegedly manipulating his service time as a rookie in 2015. He’s currently slated to earn a projected $18.5MM via the arb process next season, and that looks like a reasonable price relative to what the soon-to-be 28-year-old Bryant brings to the table. Still, if teams aren’t sure whether they’ll get one or two years of Bryant, it’s understandable that they may not want to make a massive offer for him.
Meantime, there’s no debate as to how much time Contreras has left before free agency. He’s got another three arb-eligible years, including a 2020 season in which he’s slated to earn at a bargain rate of $4.5MM. Between his cost and his years-long track record of terrific production, Contreras is hands down one of the most valuable catchers in baseball. With that in mind, the Cubs aren’t under pressure to trade Contreras for anything less than a sweetheart offer. However, if Chicago does move Contreras, it does seem to have a capable replacement on hand in Victor Caratini.
Whether the Cubs part with Rizzo, Bryant, Contreras or another of their big-time contributors (Javier Baez?), it does look as if this is setting up as an offseason of seismic changes for the club. Epstein was frustrated a year ago after the Cubs failed to advance past the wild-card round, so he’s surely even more upset now following a season in which they didn’t even make the playoffs.