TODAY: “The Mets and Cubs have not spoken in several weeks,” according to SNY’s Andy Martino, and it doesn’t seem likely that the Mets will reignite negotiations about Bryant now that Lindor has been acquired. However, there is “increasing industry chatter” that Bryant could be traded somewhere “as soon as this weekend.”
JANUARY 7: With one blockbuster trade already in the books for the Mets, could another headline-grabbing swap be in the works? The Mets and Cubs have had “recent trade talks” concerning a possible Kris Bryant deal, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.
The specific timing of these discussions isn’t known, and it could be possible that the Mets were only looking at Bryant as a fallback option if the Francisco Lindor trade didn’t happen. Still, given how aggressive the Amazins have been in seeking out high-level talent this offseason, acquiring Bryant on top of Lindor, Carrasco, Trevor May, James McCann, and any potential other additions can’t be ruled out.
Bryant is projected to earn $18.6MM in his final year of salary arbitration — like Lindor, Bryant is another high-salaried player who is a season away from free agency. While Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer claimed that payroll considerations weren’t “the focus” of Chicago’s recent deal of Yu Darvish to the Padres, multiple reports have indicated that the Cubs are trying to cut salary, and that pretty much every expensive veteran of note is a potential trade candidate.
While the Cubs surely want a good return back for trading the former NL MVP, the Mets could have an edge in trade talks (at least in terms of the quality of prospects surrendered) simply by offering to take Bryant’s entire contract off of Chicago’s books. Hypothetically, the Mets could also send an experienced Major League player back to the Cubs as part of a Bryant trade, akin to how the Cubs picked up Zach Davies from San Diego in the Darvish deal.
Moving an experienced player would help make Bryant a cleaner fit into New York’s everyday lineup, as the Mets have projected starters at each of his four potential positions — first base (Pete Alonso), third base (J.D. Davis), and the corner outfield spots (Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith). It’s safe to assume that Conforto isn’t going anywhere, and the Mets aren’t likely to move Alonso and his four years of team control for just one year of Bryant. Davis and Smith are more plausible trade candidates, particularly if the Mets were to also sign George Springer and create a further outfield surplus. Signing Springer could also turn current center fielder Brandon Nimmo into a trade chip, but the Mets could probably like to hang onto Nimmo as a backup option up the middle.
Bryant’s trade value, of course, is further impacted by his underwhelming 2020 performance. Hampered by multiple nagging injuries all year, Bryant appeared in only 34 of Chicago’s 60 games and hit .206/.293/.351 with four home runs in 147 PA. That small sample size doesn’t and shouldn’t erase Bryant’s superstar numbers from 2015-19, but it certainly doesn’t help the Cubs in their attempt to get maximum value back for one year of Bryant’s services.