Just like the dozen or more executives from around the league — and one car dealership head — that have already turned down a chance to join the Mets front office, I can’t see Kris Bryant choosing to play ball in Queens now that he’s a free agent. Mike Puma reported for the New York Post that Bryant is “among the players the Mets are expected to discuss with agent Scott Boras this week at the GM meetings,” which makes all the sense in the world from a baseball perspective.
In addition to Bryant, Boras represents several other players in whom the Mets may be interested, namely Corey Seager and Max Scherzer. Michael Conforto is another member of Team Boras, though he’s no longer a member of the Mets after rejecting their qualifying offer. That seems like an odd choice because the outfielder is coming off of a down year and will see his market further deflated by penalties attached to the QO, but his departure makes Bryant that much more valuable.
The Mets already lacked a third baseman heading into the offseason and losing Conforto means they’re down an outfielder as well. Sounds like a perfect fit for Bryant. And as Puma points out, Bryant has posted strong career numbers against the NL East and handles velocity well. He would also provide some right-handed offense to a lineup that is heavily left-handed.
Hell, Bryant is a very intelligent and thoughtful guy who could probably assume the GM role no one else seems to want. I mean, they’re going to run out of qualified candidates pretty soon here.
But for as much as Bryant to the Mets makes sense from a baseball perspective, I can’t think of too many worse fits for his personality. Even if the money is right, he’d risk flushing (pun intended) his happiness down the drain. Just think about how a lot of Cubs fans turned on him for simply not winning the MVP every season, then multiply that by threeve. Until Javier Báez changed perceptions at the end of the season, it looked for more than a moment as though he and the fans would remain at odds.
The only way I can imagine KB drawing a paycheck from Steve Cohen is if the Mets absolutely blow everyone else out of the water with an offer, and that means more than just dollars. There’d have to be a no-trade clause, something the Cubs were not willing to discuss in the course of whatever limited extension hypotheticals they presented, and I’d think some other family-centric creature comforts would be desired.
Maybe something similar to what the Cubs did for Jon Lester with the private jet usage and so forth. Comfort in the form of security, knowing he’ll be in the same place for a set period of time, means a lot to Bryant and would even be worth sacrificing some money to gain.
That’s a big part of the reason I don’t think it’ll be the Mets, since a team on the West Coast — the Mariners, for instance — would keep Bryant much closer to his Las Vegas home. Having a little less than half the distance and cutting roughly 3 hours from a one-way flight makes a difference when you’re talking about several trips a year rather than just heading to Sin City for a rare weekend getaway.
Is it possible that 29 teams agree with ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel that Bryant is worth $90 million over five years and the Mets are the only team that agrees with every other contract prognosticator on the planet that he’ll be closer to $150 million? Possibly. But that’s an exceptionally broad gulf and it’s really hard to imagine things playing out that way.
My inclusion of the Mariners wasn’t arbitrary, as they’ve been linked pretty heavily to the former MVP of late. They reportedly “went in heavy” on him at the trade deadline and have at least as much need as the Mets for a versatile star. Seattle seems like a much better match for Bryant’s whole vibe, plus their colors would set off his eyes. That’s something the Mets can’t claim.
Bringing this back around to the Cubs, Bryant actually choosing to sign elsewhere will put an additional stamp of finality on his departure. That closure has been aided by the emergence of Alexander Canario and Caleb Kilian, the latter of whom is starting to look like the Cubs’ best overall pitching prospect. His fastball touched 98 mph during Arizona Fall League play and he’s been lights-out following some early struggles and a switch to pre-tacked MLB balls.
After giving up nine runs on seven hits and five walks over two innings in his first two appearances, Kilian’s last three outings have produced 12 scoreless frames with five hits, no walks, and 15 strikeouts. The 24-year-old is putting himself squarely in the conversation for a rotation spot next season and could allow the Cubs to take a bit more of a risk in free agency this winter.
That might not completely take the sting out of losing a franchise cornerstone who helped deliver that long-awaited title, but it sure will help. Seeing Bryant go just about anywhere other than the Mets would be nice too.