The long-running service-time grievance battle between Kris Bryant and the Cubs finally came to an end Wednesday. To no one’s surprise, Bryant lost the hearing – had he won, he’d have been eligible to reach free agency after 2020 instead of 2021 – though it took longer than expected for a decision to come down.
[RELATED – MLBTR Video: Kris Bryant Loses Grievance]
Bryant’s grievance was heard back in October, not long after the Cubs’ disappointing 2019 season came to an end. Back then, there was widespread belief that the Cubs would shake up their roster this offseason, maybe even with a Bryant trade, but they’ve instead sat on the sidelines for the most part. There hasn’t been a core-altering trade, nor have there been any especially noteworthy signings, leaving the Cubs with a team which doesn’t look any better than the one that mustered 84 wins and a third-place finish in the National League Central a season ago.
Spring training is fast approaching, so the window’s shrinking for an earth-shaking Cubs trade to come together before the season. Still, despite the outcome of his grievance, it’s up in the air how much longer Bryant will last as a Cub. There was trade speculation centering on the 28-year-old former NL MVP before Wednesday, and it continued then with a rumor linking him to Colorado and a one-for-one swap for fellow star third baseman Nolan Arenado. That type of deal seems highly unlikely to occur, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams detailed, though that doesn’t mean someone (Dodgers? Rangers? Braves?) won’t make the Cubs a palatable offer for Bryant sometime soon.
Of course, if the Cubs plan to contend in 2020, it’s hard to imagine a Bryant trade doing anything but worsening their chances. At the same time, moving him could presumably upgrade a farm system that has already made recent improvements and, to many fans’ chagrin, help the club avoid the luxury tax in 2020. Bryant’s due a $18.6MM salary, and getting rid of it would put the Cubs under the $208MM threshold by a fair margin (they’re currently projected at $214MM-plus, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource). That said, the Cubs have until the end of the season to get under $208MM, meaning they may be inclined to see how they perform over the first few months of the year before deciding whether to sell off Bryant or any other high-priced players.
Bryant, for his part, doesn’t seem like a player who’s champing at the bit to get out of Chicago. Even though the grievance didn’t go his way, Bryant harbors “no ill will whatsoever” against the Cubs, which is yet another reason they don’t have to trade him. Nevertheless, we could still see more Bryant-headlined rumors in the coming weeks. Do you expect him to open 2020 as a Cub?
(Poll link for app users)