After several disappointing seasons following their first World Series victory in over 100 years, the Chicago Cubs have decided to clean house a bit this offseason. They fired manager Joe Maddon, and now rumors are swirling they're looking to trade third baseman Kris Bryant.
Bryant was seen as a future star and a cornerstone of the Chicago youth movement back in 2016 after hitting 39 homers and notching 102 RBI en route to a World Series ring. He followed it up with a solid 2017, but hasn't kept up that same production over the last two years. He's coming off a a decent but unspectacular .282 season with 31 home runs and 77 RBI. Still, at 27, Bryant should have another five or so years of average to above-average production at the plate, and is a hot topic at the MLB Winter Meetings this year. The Cubs shouldn't have a lack of suitors, they just need to find the right deal. Here are five teams who could land Bryant.
The Nationals are the most recent team to be linked to Bryant via the rumor mill, and it makes a lot of sense. After Washington signed Stephen Strasburg to a massive seven-year, $245 million deal on Monday, it seems unlikely they'll shell out a similar amount of dough to keep postseason hero Anthony Rendon. They could look to Bryant as their replacement on the corner.
Rendon is a better hitter and fielder than Bryant, but the latter would give the Nats two-thirds of his production at significantly less cost. Bryant is making $18.5 million this year, while Rendon will likely be looking for upwards of $25 million per year. Washington doesn't have a lot to offer in terms of prospects, but if the Cubs are more interested in getting some mid-level production players to fill the margins, a deal could be struck in short order.
The Phillies want to win, and they want to win now. They signed Bryce Harper and loaded up the rest of their roster last offseason in an effort to make a contender overnight. It did not work, as Philly finished at an even .500 for the year and missed the postseason entirely. Bryant and Harper are friends off the field, and it's nearly as important to keep your $300 million man happy as it is to build a solid team around him.
Philadelphia will likely be in hot pursuit of the aforementioned Rendon, but it's easy to imagine them getting outbid, given they already have Harper's massive contract on the books. They don't have an answer at third base right now, and Bryant's bat would give them a solid power lineup with Harper and J.T. Realmuto. It's clear the Phillies are looking to make another splash this offseason, and this would certainly fall into that category-- and, like the Nats, they've already been linked to Bryant.
The Braves had a breakout season in 2019 on the backs of their young stars, but fell short in the playoffs in exceptionally disappointing fashion to an average St. Louis Cardinals team. They're looking to reload for 2020, and will likely have a hole at third base after Josh Donaldson bounced back and is looking for a bigger, long-term contract than his prior one-year deal with Atlanta.
Out of all the teams on this list, they'd be most attractive to Chicago as a trade partner if the Cubs want to replenish their farm system. The Braves have seven top-100 prospects they could offer, and Bryant would be a good complement to face of the franchise Ronald Acuña Jr. Atlanta doesn't want to gut their farm system, but if Chicago isn't looking for a king's ransom, it seems likely they'll have a conversation.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Another stellar regular season, another incredibly disappointing postseason finish for the Dodgers. Something has to change, and while Bryant wouldn't solve all of their problems, he'd give another good bat to a lineup that didn't struggle for run production most of last season. Justin Turner is currently the man at third for L.A., and they certainly don't plan to get rid of him, but he's been open about his willingness to change positions for the good of the team.
Like Atlanta, the Dodgers have a good enough farm system that the Cubs won't hang up if they receive a call with a Los Angeles area code. And, similar to Philly, they'll be going big-game hunting in free agency to try and capitalize on their current core, which has been good enough to make the World Series, at the very least. If the Dodgers get the sense they're out of the running with the marquee names, Bryant should be a strong consideration.
The Rangers have not been relevant for any portion of the last eight years of the decade. They're looking to change that this offseason, and have been linked to just about every big name that's available. What makes Bryant a slightly more attractive option for Texas than Rendon or Donaldson, for example, is that he'll be making $18.5 million next year, whereas the salary numbers for those two free agents will almost certainly be much higher. That would work in Texas' favor, because hitting isn't really a need, per se, for this squad when compared to their pitching woes from last year.
Bryant would slide in nicely to the current starting lineup and give the team another experienced and proven bat to lean upon, as well as a potential cornerstone for the future at only 27. The Rangers can feel good about spending more money on upgrading their starting pitching if they land Bryant at his current salary. It's not the sexiest name on this list, but it makes a lot of sense.