Rejoice, guacamole fans, your god may soon be coming to Chicago if a wild note from MLB.com’s Jon Morosi is true. That’s right, the man known colloquially as Norman Avocado — and known actually as Nolan Arenado — is available in trade and Morosi’s sources say the chances of a deal being made have “climbed to around 50 percent.” That’s not surprising, nor is the idea that as many as six teams have been in contact with the Rockies about their third baseman, but one of the teams being named should leave you gobsmacked.
The Braves, Rangers and Nationals are believed to be among the group. The Cubs also loom as a possible suitor, especially if they trade former National League MVP Kris Bryant in a move to obtain young pitching.
I’m sorry, what was that? It almost seems as though he’s saying the Cubs, who can’t even sign the likes of Shogo Akiyama or Eric Sogard due to their exorbitant salary demands and would be moving Bryant largely to cut payroll, would actively add to the bottom line with Arenado. Granted, the guy carries a fixed cost that might be more attractive than what Bryant could command with another big season, but acquiring Arenado at this point would mean kissing all those delicious revenue-sharing dollars goodbye.
It would also mean parting with prospects, which is the literal opposite of what the Cubs are supposedly trying to do by trading Bryant and/or Willson Contreras. Then there’s the fact that Arenado can opt out after 2021, which is the same point at which Bryant will become a free agent (pending the eventual result of his never-ending grievance). His AAV would only go from $32.5 million to $32 million, either of which is significantly greater than Bryant will make via arbitration in that time, so the Cubs could find themselves in a worse financial bind than they already are.
Finally, there’s the idea that Bryant said last year when Arenado signed the deal that he would “absolutely” be open to discussing a similar extension with the Cubs. With the understanding that the math might have changed a little in the meantime, it’s still reasonable to assume that the figures are still in the same ballpark. Bryant’s also a year younger and the 135 wRC+ (which is park-adjusted) he put up in what many consider to be a disappointing 2019 campaign is three points higher than Arenado has ever posted.
Arenado’s defense at third base is one area in which he’s clearly superior, but that alone is certainly not worth all the acrobatics of a series of deals that would see him replacing Bryant in Chicago. I mean, the Cubs would have to trade Bryant to [insert team here] for a haul that includes controllable pitching, then turn around and trade some combination of that return and their current prospects for Arenado. Then they’d be sitting well above the competitive balance tax threshold they seem to be working so hard to avoid.
Or they could just, you know, not make any trades and extend Bryant. Wild, I know. That I’ve devoted any time to this at all is a byproduct of a very odd winter that has seen the Cubs sign exactly zero guaranteed MLB deals while also making exactly zero noteworthy trades. Maybe Morosi’s in the same boat of malaise and just wanted to rock it a little, or maybe he just forgot about the context of the whole matter.
All I know is that it would be the wildest thing ever for the Cubs to basically cry poor all winter, only to then swing two blockbuster trades that would significantly increase payroll. Unless the first trade includes a salary dump that clears Jason Heyward’s money as well, but we’re not going to give this topic any more attention than we already have. Whew, that was fun.