The Cubs have agreed to exactly zero guaranteed MLB deals this winter, two fewer than the Twins announced Tuesday afternoon, so everyone exhorting us to report facts only is going to have to keep waiting. However, this latest rumor regarding Kris Bryant is about as close to a fact as you can get when considering the source and context in which it resides.
Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic, who’s probably the least salaciously-inclined writer on any beat, featured Bryant heavily in his piece about 10 predictions for the Cubs in 2020 ($). Predicting a Bryant trade is about as bold as Sharma gets, which is really saying something given how likely that outcome has seemed as the winter progresses. I mean, this is a dude who was leery of sharing an otherwise accurate report about a member of the Cubs front office because he felt the supporting story lacked proper veracity, so he’s not going to throw stuff out there just because he can.
In providing color to his trade prediction, Sharma cited sources in writing that “the Nationals may be ready to make a run at trading for Bryant.” He immediately countered that by noting that it could simply be a ploy to push Josh Donaldson to make a decision on his new team, so it’s possible the Nats really don’t intend on pursuing Bryant. Except that we’ve already heard that they’ve got interest in replacing Anthony Rendon with another stud third baseman and have made an “initial inquiry” into a trade.
Also spurring the Nationals is a desire to remain competitive in a division that sees all but one rival making significant moves to get better. The Mets are loading up on pitchers, as are the Braves and Phillies, both of whom have been linked to Bryant. All of that is why Sharma predicted that “a team from the NL East will step up with a compelling enough offer for Epstein to pull the trigger.”
Even though this is very much a prediction and is carefully couched by the writer as such, it’s coming from someone who’s heard a lot of talk and is always very calculated about what he does or doesn’t share. So if he’s going out on a limb with this, you can bet it’s a much thicker and sturdier one than what most others would be content to test.
Sharma follows the KB trade speculation by predicting that the third baseman will contend for MVP in 2020, which is more or less a given if he can stay healthy. In echoing what we’ve lamented here at CI for the past three years, Sharma notes the undue criticism Bryant has received despite being the Cubs’ best player. Staying healthy means having a more consistent run-producer in the lineup, which would yield a big overall improvement for the Cubs in general.
Of course, it’ll take more than just Bryant remaining healthy for the Cubs to succeed, especially if he’s playing elsewhere. As for exactly how the front office will go about bolstering a disappointing roster despite not wanting to spend money and having most of the impact free agents gone, well, that remains to be seen.