With the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the attention now turns to the next big potential name to be moved: Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant.
Bryant recently lost his service time manipulation grievance against the Cubs, which means he will become a free agent after the 2021 season, which makes him an attractive, cost-effective trade piece.
But why would the Cubs, a team that was in the thick of the playoff race last season, trade its All-Star third baseman?
The same reason why the Red Sox traded Betts: money.
Bryant is set to make $18.6 million in 2020, and reportedly rejected a $200 million contract with the Cubs already. With the Red Sox now setting the precedent of a big market team moving a star player to get under the luxury tax threshold, the Cubs are likely to follow suit.
The extra year of service time does buy the Cubs some time as well, but there are already reports that the organization has been in trade talks involving Bryant. Here are some of the possible destinations.
The Phillies are one of the teams that have already been linked to the Cubs and Bryant with "exploratory interest," according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Philadelphia has been active this winter, signing Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius, and could be looking for another piece in chase of a World Series in a competitive NL East. Yet, doing so would put the Phillies over the dreaded luxury tax that is causing teams to deal such star players, but it just might be worth it. Bryant would fill a need for the Phillies at third base and give them another star along with Bryce Harper, who just so happens to be close with Bryant as the two played together as teenagers.
The price for Bryant may start with Phillies top prospect Alec Bohm. It makes sense from the Cubs' perspective as he can fill Bryant's shoes at third base once he is ready for the majors. The Dodgers had to find a third team involved to help sweeten the pot for the Red Sox in the Betts deal, so if the Phillies don't want to part with Bohm they may have to get creative.
The Nationals are the other team that has been linked to the Cubs as having "exploratory interest" in Bryant, per Nightengale. Washington lost a big piece of their World Series core in Anthony Rendon, so trading for Bryant would put the Nationals back in good position to defend their title and compete for one over the next two years. The Nationals have a fairly weak farm system, though, and would likely have to part with top prospect, shortstop Carter Kieboom. Another option would be to make 22-year-old outfielder Victor Robles the centerpiece of a deal, but reports indicate that Washington is not willing to part with him.
The Braves have a hole to fill at third base with Josh Donaldson headed to Minnesota, so there is certainly a need. But the Braves also recently inked outfielder Marcell Ozuna to a one-year, $18 million deal, which is what Bryant would cost for the 2020 season and Atlanta does not have deep pockets. But the Braves' window to win in the National League is now and another move is going to be needed to make to compete with the Dodgers. They do have a loaded farm system, but if Bryant is not dealt by Opening Day, perhaps the Braves feel more confident in how aggressive they want to be in their pursuit by the July 31 trade deadline.
After missing out on Anthony Rendon, the Texas Rangers remain in the market for a third baseman and Bryant could be a trade option for them. The problem here, though, is that the Rangers do not have an elite farm system and could face difficulty swinging a deal. They will have to get creative, or perhaps make 2019 first-round draft pick Josh Jung, another third baseman, available. Nevertheless, the need is there for a third baseman, it's about putting together a package that would work.
San Diego Padres
The Padres are a darkhorse in the Kris Bryant sweepstakes. They missed out on Betts and already have Manny Machado patrolling the hot corner. Any deal for Bryant would likely require the third baseman to play left field in San Diego. The Padres do have one of the best farm systems in baseball, but do not necessarily have an infielder they can send to Chicago to replace Bryant. Catcher Francisco Mejia could be an option should the Cubs also deal Willson Contreras. They also have plenty of young arms they could build a package around, too.