TODAY: Casting further cold water on the Bryant/Arenado rumors, a source tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that this speculation could be “media noise” from the Cubs themselves, trying to spur on better offers from other teams (i.e. the Phillies, Nationals, Braves) that could have interest in Bryant.
FEBRUARY 12: When Major League Basbeall’s offseason started, the Cubs looked like one of the sport’s most intriguing teams. After collapsing last season and finishing with 84 wins, there was an expectation the Cubs’ roster would undergo a drastic makeover. That hasn’t happened at all, though, and the Cubs have largely been quiet this winter. They’ve made no earth-shattering acquisitions (apologies to Steven Souza Jr., Jason Kipnis and Jeremy Jeffress) or roster-altering trades, though they have lost a few notable players – including Nicholas Castellanos and Cole Hamels – since the winter began.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein addressed the Cubs’ offseason Tuesday, saying (via Jordan Bastian of MLB.com), “I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been as much turnover as we expected.” Epstein noted, though, that the Cubs aren’t going to make changes for the sake of it, and he still has high expectations for the team as it’s currently constructed.
Chicago does indeed have quite a bit of talent still on hand, and third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant may be atop the list. The former NL MVP continues to be the subject of trade rumors, however, and dealing him and his $18.6MM salary would enable the Cubs’ maligned ownership to get under the $208MM luxury-tax threshold in 2020. As things stand, the Cubs are projected for a tax payroll just south of $214MM, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource and FanGraphs.
If the Cubs are more worried about competing than ducking the tax, the 28-year-old Bryant could remain an important cog in helping them rebound in 2020. However, multiple teams have shown interest in acquiring him. The Rangers, Rockies, Nationals and Phillies have discussed Bryant with the Cubs recently, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com.
Aside from the Rockies, who have the disgruntled Nolan Arenado at third base, those teams could use upgrades at the hot corner. There has been talk of an Arenado-Bryant swap, but that has always seemed far-fetched, and there aren’t indications that Bryant will wind up with anyone else imminently. The Cubs could instead choose to keep Bryant, attempt to push for a playoff spot this season and see where they stand around the July trade deadline. Considering that Epstein still believes in the talent the club still has, Chicago may well go that way.