The Cubs have reportedly been in fervent pursuit of trade possibilities, exploring deals involving much of their roster — including Kris Bryant. There are some wrinkles to structuring a deal for the superstar third baseman, as well as some new market developments of note. In particular, the Nationals have approached the Cubs to discuss Bryant, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com.
The Cubs are still awaiting resolution on a service-time grievance filed by Bryant and his representatives, despite the fact that a hearing was held in late October. Speaking to The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma and other reporters at the Winter Meetings, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said he felt the ruling is “not going to be more than a couple weeks away,” though he admitted some frustration that the matter has yet to be decided.
That said, Epstein stated the team is “operating with what our understanding of what the likely outcome will be and moving forward that way,” which would hint that the Cubs are confident that Bryant will remain under team control through the 2021 season. A ruling in the other direction, which would grant Bryant free agency after the 2020 season, would certainly count as a surprise, and one with a major impact on Chicago’s future roster maneuverings.
Needless to say, the length of Bryant’s remaining service time would have a giant impact on what the Wrigleyville side would receive back in a trade, though the third base market joins the delayed grievance ruling as the biggest factors in any trade plans the Cubs might have for Bryant. Sharma notes that the Cubs are figuring that teams who miss out on Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson could come calling about Bryant, which would leave Chicago discussing Bryant with at least three of such teams as the Dodgers, Braves, Rangers, Phillies, and Nationals. Of that group, the Cubs would most likely be interested in the prospect-deep Atlanta or Los Angeles farm systems. Sharma also wonders if Chicago could also shop Bryant to the Padres (another club with a stacked farm system) as an outfielder, since San Diego is set at the corner infield spots with Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer.
In terms of specific potential landing spots, it seems we’re mostly dealing with informed speculation and hypotheticals. But we’re also beginning to see indications of actual trade talks. The Nationals’ reported expression of interest is certainly intriguing, though it may be difficult for the D.C. organization to structure a deal. The club is not ruling out a return from Rendon and has also shown interest in Donaldson. But adding another monster deal to bring back Rendon would be tough to do. And Donaldson is said to be heading for a fourth guaranteed year with widespread interest. Under the circumstances, the Nats are surely not the only team to have made contact regarding Bryant. Jon Heyman of MLB Network noted yesterday on Twitter that the Braves and Phillies “could be a fit,” though it’s not clear whether that suggestive phrasing was indicative of dialogue between the organizations.