Just a few days ago, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi told 670 The Score that the Cubs should move Kris Bryant well before the deadline for the equivalent of a lottery ticket or two from the lower minors. That’s because Morosi was so confident in a trade, and in the Cubs’ inability to secure high-level talent in return, that the extra month or so of Bryant’s services would greatly increase his value.
Mind you, we’re talking about the difference between getting a player who’s never left his team’s spring training complex and one who might be all the way up to Low-A at this point. So, uh, basically a quarter to a half of what the Cubs got in return for a full year of Yu Darvish and three years of Victor Caratini. Yeah, no.
Ah, but Morosi appeared to be backpedaling from that just a bit Tuesday morning when he tweeted that the Cubs’ improved play of late will heavily influence the team’s strategy. I mean, duh, but the key here is that trades involving Bryant, Javy Báez, and Anthony Rizzo “aren’t imminent after all.”
The #Cubs direction at the @MLB Trade Deadline — i.e., whether Bryant, Rizzo, and Baez are dealt — is said to be heavily influenced by their play this month. Well, they are 9-5 in May with a +16 run differential. Those deals aren't imminent after all. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) May 18, 2021
Not that they ever should have been imminent, since all three should have been made more significant offers over the past few seasons. Believe what you want when it comes to what the Cubs have or haven’t presented and what the players have or haven’t turned down, but my understanding based on sources with knowledge of the situation is that Bryant has never been formally offered anything.
More specifically, the report about a deal well north of $200 million was inflated in terms of both guaranteed value and formality.
Reports about talks with Rizzo this offseason had the team lowballing him with a max contract of around $70 million over five years. Javy is a bit of a different story, as a report from earlier in the season had him turning down a deal “somewhere in the range of $180 million” prior to the 2019 season. While I find it hard to believe that the Cubs would have offered that much or that Javy would have turned it down, even a sliver of veracity means both sides almost certainly remain far apart in terms of their respective targets.
With Wrigley Field moving to 60% capacity at the end of May and presumably getting up to 100% by the end of June, there are no more excuses for ownership to force cost-cutting measures akin to the Darvish trade. So even if keeping all three of the current star players mentioned is a bit of a stretch, trading all three would be a grievous error.
That would be a tear-down, just not one designed to initiate a rebuild of any sort. The Cubs are one of the most valuable sports franchises in the entire world and they’ve got less than $60 million in payroll obligations next season, so the idea that they’ve got to save money and restock the farm system by trading away core players for teenagers is laughable at best.
Flawed though this roster may be, there’s a very broad gulf between running it back and hitting the reset button. How Jed Hoyer manages to navigate those waters is going to say a lot about whether he’s able to complete the terms of his own contract, not to mention whether Cubs fans are willing to keep packing Wrigley at the highest prices in the sport.