Ranking the Top 10 Landing Spots for Kris Bryant in MLB Free Agency

Brandon Scott@@brandonkscottFeatured Columnist IDecember 19, 2021

Ranking the Top 10 Landing Spots for Kris Bryant in MLB Free Agency

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Even with an active free-agent period before this break, it still left for plenty of speculation about where remaining players might land.

    One of those players is Kris Bryant, who once seemed like a perfect fit to return to the Giants, the team that traded for him before last season's deadline.

    But with San Francisco prioritizing other areas like pitching and possibly not being impressed with Bryant enough to sign him to a large contract, it looks like the 2016 National League MVP could land on his third team in just two seasons.

    Which squads might attach themselves to the four-time All-Star? Here is a ranking of the top-10 landing spots for Bryant, considering fit and willingness to spend.

10. Colorado Rockies

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Rockies' interest in Bryant seems odd considering the great players they have moved on from in the past year. They traded perennial All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado in February.

    Then Colorado failed to trade shortstop Trevor Story before the deadline and will seemingly watch him leave in free agency. Nothing about the Rockies' moves of late suggest they're in the market for a $100 million player. 

    Still, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported last month the Rockies are interested in Bryant and that it would be a geographical fit for the Las Vegas native. Mark Feinsand, also of MLB Network, reported there had been discussions between the two sides before the lockout and that "the interest is real."

    Bryant's defensive versatility makes him appealing to any team, and the Rockies are no exception. In 144 games split between the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants last season, Bryant hit .265/.353/.481 with 25 home runs, 73 RBI and 124 OPS+, which would have been the second-best bat in Colorado's lineup last year behind C.J. Cron. 

    Maybe the Rockies want to make Bryant the face of their rebuild.

9. Chicago Cubs

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    The odds of Bryant returning to the Cubs range from "no chance" to "would not rule it out," depending on who you listen to. A reunion does not appear likely, given all the chances they had to agree on a contract extension before Bryant was traded. 

    Bryant would still be affordable, certainly by Cubs standards, and meet some of their many needs in Chicago. As a former MVP there and turning 30 next season, the franchise icon is still in his prime and could help the Cubs try to turn things around.

    The way Jed Hoyer handled the trades of Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Craig Kimbrel really left an impression on Bryant. However, that alone won't be enough to bring him back.

    The Cubs and Bryant would have to do something they couldn't in all of their time before the trade. So the only way a reunion seems viable is if Hoyer was right, and their old offers hold up exceptionally well against the market.

8. New York Yankees

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    Bryant is an odd fit with the Yankees because their primary need is at shortstop, and they have depth at third base with Gio Urshela and D.J. LeMahieu. But remember the f-word that keeps coming up with Bryant— his positional flexibility leaves plenty of options for New York to tinker with their lineup.

    The Yankees could also move Urshela or LeMahieu if such a deal happened and would be instantly better at the position.

    It was a quiet free-agent market in the Bronx before the Dec. 2 lockout, while they watched their crosstown rival Mets land Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar.

    The rest of the AL East was active, too, with the Blue Jays getting starter Kevin Gausman and the Rays signing former Yankees starter Corey Kluber, in addition to the 11-year extension to shortstop Wander Franco.

    Signing Bryant does not address the Yankees' need at shortstop, but it helps their options just about everywhere else. Considering their interest in Andrelton Simmons, the Yankees could go the cheaper route at shortstop and pay more for Bryant.

7. San Francisco Giants

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    This seemed like the perfect and most logical fit when the Giants traded for Bryant before the deadline. He did not always perform great for San Francisco (numbers actually dropped from .267/.358/.503 in 93 games for Chicago to .262/.344/.444 after the trade).

    Bryant's defense also, at times, left a lot to be desired.

    But his value to a Giants team that had already been turning heads as a surprise contender was not necessarily how well he played defensively but rather the lineup flexibility he provided for his teammates.

    Bryant made 26 appearances at third base, 19 in left field, 11 in right field and five in center for San Francisco. Earlier in the season for the Cubs, he made 29 appearances apiece at third and left field, 28 in right and 14 in center.

    A player who can hit in the middle of the lineup and play as many positions at least an average level fits the mold of what the Giants want.

    However, aspects of Bryant's game "definitely underwhelmed" San Francisco, according to The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly, making it unlikely for them to offer a nine-figure deal to the former NL MVP.

6. Boston Red Sox

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    Boston Globe/Getty Images

    The Red Sox don't have many financial commitments after the 2022 season. Beyond Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, there is little to point toward as foundational pieces, certainly not as high-priced ones.

    Kris Bryant would improve the Red Sox, both in the short term and in the future. More importantly, they have the deep pockets to acquire his services. As ESPN's Alden Gonzalez noted, Bryant would fit well in left field for Boston, and he could also play first base.

    Adding Bryant is more about the offense than anything. That was what carried Boston to the ALCS and within two games of the World Series as a wild-card team.

    "The Red Sox need a move like this to keep pace with the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays in baseball's deepest division," Gonzalez wrote. "And, yes, they can afford it. Bryant's contract would probably put the Red Sox close to the $200 million mark in 2022, but they can navigate in those spaces."

    The question Boston fans have to be asking is, if not now, when will they start spending like they are the Red Sox.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    After already losing Max Scherzer and Corey Seager, the Dodgers have money to spend and still need another bat.

    This is a scenario where the universal designated hitter being introduced to the National League really matters. It would increase Bryant's value to the Dodgers because they could transition 37-year-old Justin Turner from third base to DH, with soon-to-be 30-year-old Bryant replacing him at third.

    Bryant can also play at first and the outfield spots, allowing the Dodgers to put Turner at third and move Bryant around if they need the flexibility.

    Before the Dodgers re-signed All-Star utility player Chris Taylor to a four-year, $60 million deal, Bryant was thought to be a viable replacement. If the Dodgers can get Taylor and Bryant for under $250 million, it wouldn't be a bad bargain.

    The best free-agency outcome for the Dodgers would have been to re-sign as many of their free agents as possible. After losing the two best ones in Seager and Scherzer, keeping Clayton Kershaw and signing Bryant would be a consolation.

4. Houston Astros

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    This fit makes sense for both Bryant and the Astros. Bryant is seeking a six-year deal in the $160-170 million range, according to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post.

    Meanwhile, the Astros could lose shortstop Carlos Correa in free agency, largely due to their unwillingness to pay significantly more than what actually seems to be closer to Bryant's asking price. Correa, a younger, better player than Bryant, turned down a five-year, $160 million contract from the Astros.

    A similar offer could sway Bryant. Such a move would most impact Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, whose natural position is shortstop. Bregman said in the Schwabcast with Michael Schwab that he expects to play shortstop at an All-Star level if called upon but also wants Correa back.

    That continuity would certainly pay dividends, as Bregman, Correa, second baseman Jose Altuve and first baseman Yuli Gurriel have played more postseason games together than any four teammates in MLB history (73 games).

    The Astros' best free-agent move might be re-signing Justin Verlander to a two-year, $50 million deal (second-year player option). However, moving Bregman over to shortstop, then having Bryant play third and almost anywhere else on the field, is a solid backup plan that makes more sense economically should Houston move on from Correa.

3. New York Mets

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    After the Mets made Max Scherzer the oldest MLB player to sign a contract worth more than $100 million, it's hard to rule them out of anything this offseason. After all, New York signed shortstop Francisco Lindor to a 10-year, $341 million contract extension before the start of the season.

    The Mets traded for Bryant's teammate Javier Baez but watched him sign with the Detroit Tigers in free agency. New York added Eduardo Escobar to the roster, but he can also play second base and move to third when Bryant is used elsewhere in his utility role.

    For Baez, the Mets were reportedly willing to go as high as $125 million. Would that be enough to get Bryant, or would they have to add a few more chips to the table?

    If Lindor and Baez formed a power double-play duo, a left side with the latter and Bryant has to be just as intriguing.

    As a bonus, but certainly not of highest priority, signing Bryant keeps him away from his buddy Bryce Harper in Philadelphia.

2. Seattle Mariners

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    Seattle Mariners president Jerry Dipoto has not exactly been shy about his fondness for Bryant. When asked about Bryant at last month's general managers meetings in Carlsbad, California, Dipoto said, "he's a great player, which is evidenced by the career he's had to date."

    The Mariners already showed they're willing to be aggressive by signing AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to a five-year, $115 million deal.

    Going after Bryant is consistent with their words and actions.

    "We have a variety of different ways we can address our team," Dipoto said. "We are most interested in players who have the versatility to do a couple of different things because it allows us to be creative in how we fill those gaps. But at the end of the day, we want to improve our talent base, and we want to improve our run-scoring capability."

    While the Mariners made an admirable run at a wild-card spot last season, they ultimately did not have the offense of a true contender. Their .688 OPS was second-worst in the American League, behind only the Texas Rangers and their MLB-worst mark of .670.

    Signing a former MVP at age 30 for the middle of their lineup adds necessary support to a young core primed to break their 20-year playoff drought.

1. Philadelphia Phillies

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    For the Phillies, it doesn't matter which position Bryant plays.

    Ideally, he would play third base as an upgrade over Alec Bohm. First baseman Rhys Hoskins is better suited as a designated hitter if it's ever adopted for National League play in the new CBA.

    That opens a regular spot at first base for Bryant.

    And one of Philadelphia's stated goals this offseason is to get a slugging outfielder to support reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper.

    Speaking of Harper, Bryant is his hometown friend. The two grew up playing together and against each other in Las Vegas.

    The Phillies' rumored priority is signing Kyle Schwarber, but it stands to reason a team interested in Schwarber would be interested in Bryant, too. Both address offensive needs, but Bryant is a more versatile defensive player.

    Last season, Philadelphia was seventh-worst in outs above average and runs prevented, according to Statcast. Bryant may not be a defensive wizard, but he would still improve the Phillies' subpar defense while boosting a middling lineup.