Kris Bryant is drawing interest from multiple teams as the trade deadline approaches, with MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link) reporting that the Mets are one of the clubs considering the former NL MVP. There isn’t any indication that the Cubs are close to a deal with the Mets or any other team about Bryant, though tonight’s trade of Joc Pederson indicates that the Cubs are indeed open for business with more than two weeks to go before the trade deadline.
This isn’t the first time that Bryant has been linked to the Mets, as Chicago and New York reportedly had discussions involving Bryant during the offseason (though Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said reports of those talks were inaccurate). Speculatively, if J.D. Davis was indeed discussed as part of a potential trade return and if he is still on the Cubs’ radar, it could be that nothing might get done between the Mets and Cubs about Bryant until Davis makes his expected return from the injured list Friday and shows that he is healthy. A pair of injuries to Davis’ left hand has limited him to only 14 games this season.
It isn’t a surprise that the Mets (or any contender) would be checking in on Bryant, considering his potential value as a difference-maker for a team in October. Bryant has rebounded from an injury-plagued 2020 to hit .271/.353/.502 with 16 homers over 329 plate appearances this season, with the caveat that most of that production came within the first two months. Since June 1, Bryant has only a .568 OPS and four home runs in 117 PA, and his Statcast numbers are solid overall but middling when it comes to hard contact numbers.
With free agency looming this winter, Bryant has plenty of incentive to step up big over the remainder of the season and put himself in good position for a big free agent contract. Given the trade speculation that has swirled around Bryant for over two years now, it wouldn’t really be surprising to see him take off at the plate if/when he finally did get dealt.
The Mets’ projected luxury tax number is roughly $13.5MM under the $210MM threshold. Bryant’s remaining salary (he is owed $19.5MM in 2021) would eat up a big chunk of that remaining space and leave the Mets with little wiggle room to make further additions while staying under the threshold, unless some other contracts were moved to the Cubs or in other trades. That said, Mets owner Steve Cohen has expressed an openness for crossing the tax threshold in the right circumstances, and would seemingly rather blow by the $210MM figure than only exceed it by a small amount. If Cohen did authorize such a big go-for-it push, the financial aspect of a Bryant trade might not be an issue for the Mets.
On the field, Bryant obviously brings plenty of value to the NL East leaders. As Heyman notes, Bryant’s ability to play multiple positions (both corner infield spots and all three outfield spots) adds to his value, particularly for a New York team that hasn’t gotten much production and has been looking to solidify third base.