Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber provide an array of value for the Chicago Cubs.
But should new President Jed Hoyer decide to trade one — or more — of the four, only so many major-league teams can afford them. And in the case of Baez, Bryant and Schwarber, how many teams would be willing to pay for only one guaranteed season of service while surrendering prized prospects to the Cubs in return?
The answer, in most cases, is large-market teams with a heightened sense of urgency to win.
With Jed Hoyer taking over as president of baseball operations, here’s a look at which teams potentially match up well with select Cubs players.
New York Yankees
Of the 94 home runs the Yankees hit last season, only 14 came from left-handed hitters.
With only 318 feet to the right-field foul pole at Yankee Stadium, it’s easy to envision Schwarber fitting in perfectly and reaching his 38-home-run level from 2019.
The Cubs could look for a rebound from infielder Miguel Andujar, the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year runner-up who can play third base and left field, depending on the health of his right shoulder.
The Cubs should be able to pry a young pitcher to complete the deal.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The World Series champions would prefer to re-sign third baseman Justin Turner, although he could move to another position.
That would create an opening for Bryant, and the Dodgers continue to master the difficult task of winning and developing young talent.
The Dodgers haven’t been afraid to acquire players with one year left on their contracts, as evidenced by trades for Manny Machado in 2018 after Corey Seager injured his arm and Mookie Betts in February, with Betts signing a 12-year, $365 million extension in July.
Boston Red Sox
Two sources confirmed the Red Sox and Cubs discussed Bryant this summer, but those talks faded.
Rafael Devers is the incumbent at third base, which means the Red Sox would envision Bryant as a left fielder.
The Red Sox’s farm system isn’t deep, but they have a lot of money after clearing the salaries of David Price and Mookie Betts by trading them to the Dodgers in February.
Mike Bryant, Kris’ father, is a Massachusetts native, but his son will dictate where he plays when becoming a free agent after 2021.
Top prospect Carter Kieboom took over for Anthony Rendon at third base this season but hit only .202 and split time with Asdrubal Cabrera. Kieboom is only 23, and the Nationals always will be in win-now mode under general manager Mike Rizzo and a rotation composed of Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg, who missed nearly all of 2020 after right wrist surgery.
A source said before the COVID-19 pandemic that the Nationals were interested in Bryant, and a tweet from Jon Morosi of MLB.com on Friday said the Nationals were considering free agent DJ LeMahieu and Bryant.
Prying Victor Robles would be a difficult task, but the Cubs should be firm in their demands since Bryant is represented by agent Scott Boras, who represents several Nationals players. Cubs also should seek one of many top pitching prospects from their productive farm system.
Tampa Bay Rays
Don’t laugh. The Rays paid pitcher Charlie Morton $30 million over the last two seasons, and they need a catcher.
Contreras, who is two seasons from free agency, would fill a major hole for a Rays team that will continue to compete for division titles in the tough AL East.
The Cubs’ Willson Contreras crosses the plate behind White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal after hitting a home run on Sept. 25, 2020, at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.
The Cubs’ Willson Contreras crosses the plate behind White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal after hitting a home run on Sept. 25, 2020, at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
The Rays, like the Dodgers, continue to win and produce young players. Contreras’ value could command two of their many young, hard-throwing pitchers as well as a top young infielder who could serve as the heir apparent at shortstop if Baez doesn’t re-sign.
The Atlanta Braves, who also are deep with young pitchers and a promising hitter in Austin Riley, remain a fit for Bryant. But the Braves’ priorities after signing left-hander Drew Smyly, appear to be re-signing free-agent slugger Marcell Ozuna and signing 2020 National League Most Valuable Player Freddie Freeman to a long-term extension.
Moving outfielder Jason Heyward and the three years and $65 million left on his contract would require his permission because he has at least 10 years of service time, including the last five with the Cubs.
Yu Darvish, the NL Cy Young Award runner-up who has three years and $62 million left on his contract, can block a trade to 12 teams.
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