Best Potential Trade Packages for Chicago Cubs Slugger Kris Bryant
As ESPN's Jeff Passan reported on the eve of this month's winter meetings, executives around Major League Baseball were describing the Cubs as "aggressive," "manic," "motivated" and "obvious" in their attempt to move one of their core stars. Such is their apparent level of discomfort following their disappointing 84-win season in 2019.
Though he's under control for potentially two more years—more on why the "potentially" is necessary later—Bryant is trade bait. As a three-time All-Star who also netted the National League Rookie of the Year in 2015 and MVP in 2016, he has a certain appeal that can't be denied.
So, let's discuss Bryant's value and what the Cubs might get for him out of potential trading partners.
Kris Bryant's Value vs. Cubs' Reported Asking Price
Kris Bryant was the best prospect in baseball when he debuted in 2015, and he spent the next three years racking up a .915 OPS, 94 home runs and 19.6 wins above replacement, per Baseball Reference.
In 2018, however, Bryant struggled with a shoulder injury. He then recovered with a good-not-great season in 2019. His .903 OPS and 31 homers were fine, but his 3.6 WAR fell short of the standard he established in his first three seasons.
Bryant, who'll turn 28 on Jan. 4, is nonetheless projected to earn $18.5 million via arbitration for 2020, with another raise due to him in 2021. Unless, of course, his service-time grievance against the Cubs goes his way and he's cleared for free agency after 2020.
Which is to say Bryant's trade value is both not what it once was and, well, complicated.
Yet according to David O'Brien of The Athletic, Chicago is seeking "two pitching prospects and a bat." Presumably, the latter would have to be one whom the Cubs could plug in right away or very soon.
Because they can just as easily keep Bryant, the Cubs can stick to their reported ask until someone meets it. Let's look at six trade packages that might be out there, ranked subjectively from worst to best.
6. Texas Rangers
The Rangers' best hitting prospect happens to be a third baseman, but Josh Jung is only 21 and likely a couple of years from The Show. Instead of him, the Cubs could press for 24-year-old Nick Solak, who broke out with 32 homers in the minors and majors in 2019.
Because Solak has some downside by way of his defensive limitations and ground-ball habit, however, the Cubs would need to offset that by demanding a pair of ready, quality arms.
As it happens, 22-year-old left-hander Kolby Allard looks expendable in the wake of the Rangers' rotation buildup. Fellow lefty Joe Palumbo, 25, has some control issues to iron out, but his ability to miss bats makes him attractive.
The Package: INF Nick Solak, LHP Kolby Allard and LHP Joe Palumbo
5. Philadelphia Phillies
They probably have more hope of signing Josh Donaldson than they do of trading for Bryant. They don't have many spare major leaguers lying around, after all, and their farm system is simultaneously weak and top-heavy.
Scott Kingery, who's signed to a team-friendly deal that might not end until 2026, could be a target for the Cubs. Or they could insist on getting back more upside with a demand for Philly's top prospect: 23-year-old third baseman Alec Bohm, who rates as MLB.com's No. 34 overall prospect.
In that case, the Phillies would presumably put a wall around well-regarded right-hander Spencer Howard and limit the Cubs' pitching selections to arms they don't covet as much.
For their part, the Cubs might at least need underrated righty Zach Eflin, who's 25 and controlled through 2022. They might also require an MLB-ready prospect, among whom the 23-year-old Adonis Medina would be their best bet.
The Package: 3B Alec Bohm, RHP Zach Eflin and RHP Adonis Medina
4. Washington Nationals
Bryant would be a more than capable replacement for Rendon at third base, but the Cubs' preferred centerpiece in a deal with the reigning World Series champions might not be attainable. Per MLB Network's Jon Heyman, 22-year-old center fielder Victor Robles is "likely a no go."
If not Robles, the Cubs would have to get Carter Kieboom. The 22-year-old shortstop is the best prospect in Washington's relatively weak system, and he could step right into Bryant's shoes in Chicago.
Pitching-wise, the Nationals aren't exactly overrun with talented young hurlers. Yet Wil Crowe could suit the Cubs. He's a 25-year-old righty who's ready for the majors.
Because Crowe doesn't have exceptional upside, the Cubs might also require 20-year-old righty Jackson Rutledge. He's further from The Show, but his 6'8", 250-pound frame and hard fastball-slider combination give him an intriguing Tyler Glasnow-like profile.
The Package: SS Carter Kieboom, RHP Wil Crowe and RHP Jackson Rutledge
3. San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres have Manny Machado signed to play third base all the way through 2028, and for a total of $300 million to boot.
The Padres have discussed Bryant with the Cubs anyway, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Squint hard enough, and it's possible to see a scenario in which they play him in left or right field.
Because Fernando Tatis Jr. is presumably off-limits and Luis Urias is no longer in the organization, the Padres lack a young, exciting infielder who could swap places with Bryant. They can spare a catcher, however, and Francisco Mejia might interest the Cubs.
Willson Contreras' defense is so problematic that Chicago may consider getting him out of the crouch. Mejia, 24, rated as a basically average defender in 2019. He also posted a respectable .754 OPS, and his offensive upside almost certainly goes higher.
The Padres otherwise have some good arms in their No. 1 farm system, but they would likely insist the Cubs bypass MacKenzie Gore and pick lesser talents. MLB-ready southpaw Adrian Morejon and 20-year-old wunderkind Ryan Weathers might satisfy the Cubs.
The Package: C Francisco Mejia, LHP Adrian Morejon and LHP Ryan Weathers
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Though the Dodgers don't have an immediate need for him at third base, they can create one by obliging Justin Turner's willingness to move across the diamond. Plus, Turner would probably be glad to have a fellow right-handed slugger in the Dodgers' left-leaning lineup.
Instead, the Cubs could go for 23-year-old outfielder Alex Verdugo, who's controlled through 2024. So long as he makes a full recovery from the back injury that derailed his 2019 season, he would bring some upside to their outfield with his above-average bat and glove.
The Cubs could then push for hard-throwing righty Dustin May. The 22-year-old is the Dodgers' best pitching prospect, yet his path to their staff is unclear. If the Dodgers were to throw in 23-year-old righty Dennis Santana as a sort of reclamation project, they might have a deal.
The Package: OF Alex Verdugo, RHP Dustin May and RHP Dennis Santana
1. Atlanta Braves
There's little question that the Braves would be favorites for Bryant if they were to pivot in his direction. Frankly, they have more talent than they need in their No. 3 farm system, and they can even spare some players from their major league roster.
For example, 22-year-old slugger Austin Riley. Like Bryant, he's a natural third baseman who can also play the outfield. And while he took his lumps in the majors last season, his .878 OPS and 27 homers in 119 career games at Triple-A underscore his offensive potential.
Meanwhile, the Braves have a ton of arms for the Cubs to choose from.
Left-hander Sean Newcomb, 26, might be pried loose after following his 2018 breakout with a step back in 2019. Somebody like righty Patrick Weigel, a 25-year-old with control problems but also good stuff, could be a suitable capper.
The Package: 3B/OF Austin Riley, LHP Sean Newcomb and RHP Patrick Weigel