There has been a lot of talk all offseason about a superstar getting moved in a trade, and it wasn’t until this week that such a blockbuster was finally agreed to, with 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts (along with left-hander David Price) reportedly going from the Red Sox to the Dodgers in a three-team deal that also involves the Twins.
Will this embolden other general managers to swing a similar type of blockbuster? If so, a name to watch is Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant.
The Cubs have been open about their willingness to listen on any of their players. And a big part of the reason the Cubs are even discussing a trade involving the 2016 NL MVP is that Bryant -- along with Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Kyle Schwarber -- is scheduled to hit free agency following the 2021 season. And the team presumably won’t be able to hold on to all of them.
Whether Bryant is moved before pitchers and catchers report remains to be seen, as the Cubs could opt to take their time and shop him in advance of the July 31 Trade Deadline (or next offseason).
Which teams might make a play for Bryant? Here are five that make sense, including one that may surprise you.
1. Atlanta Braves
Atlanta missed out on both Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson, leaving Austin Riley and Johan Camargo to man third base. GM Alex Anthopoulos has a treasure trove of prospects if he chooses to take a run at a trade for Bryant, who would add the big bat many feel the defending NL East champions still need. The Braves have also been linked to Nolan Arenado, the other big-name third baseman being discussed in trade rumors.
2. Colorado Rockies
Nolan Arenado’s future is up in the air as the Rockies consider trading their franchise player, so why not swap him in a deal for Bryant? It is believed that Arenado would waive his no-trade clause to go to the Cubs, while Bryant would benefit from playing at hitter-friendly Coors Field in advance of free agency. One wrinkle here is that while Arenado is signed through 2026, which would give the Cubs some cost certainty, he can opt out following the ‘21 season. That could potentially put him in the same free agent class as Bryant (unless the Cubs could get Arenado to void or delay his opt-out as part of the deal). As far as “challenge trades” go, this would be an all-timer.
3. Washington Nationals
Having lost Anthony Rendon to the Angels via free agency and missed out on Josh Donaldson (signed with Twins), the Nationals’ third-base situation remains in limbo, with Asdrubal Cabrera and/or Carter Kieboom penciled in at the hot corner. Kieboom and fellow infielder Luis Garcia are both Top 100 prospects per MLB Pipeline, though the Cubs could ask for Major League talent back in a deal, too. Nats general manager Mike Rizzo is not afraid to make big deals, so they are always a team to watch when superstars become available.
4. Texas Rangers
Like the Braves and Nationals, the Rangers were in the mix for both Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson as Texas looks to upgrade at third base. Todd Frazier is currently atop the depth chart, though the veteran could certainly move across the diamond to first base. The Rangers want another impact bat, and with none left on the free-agent market, Bryant represents one of the few remaining options. With their new ballpark set to open this season, adding a player of Bryant’s magnitude would certainly energize the fan base.
Also worth noting: Since Theo Epstein took control of the Cubs’ baseball operations at the end of 2011, the Cubs and Rangers (led by GM Jon Daniels going back to 2005) have made nine trades, including deals that featured the likes of Kyle Hendricks, Ryan Demptster and Cole Hamels, among many others. These two teams have been known to work together.
5. St. Louis Cardinals
Admittedly, a mega-deal between the rival Cubs and Cardinals is extremely unlikely, but St. Louis remains in the hunt for an impact bat and third base seems like a natural spot. The Cardinals, after all, have been among the rumored suitors for Nolan Arenado. St. Louis could include third base prospect Nolan Gorman (No. 47 on Pipeline’s Top 100) in a deal, along with one or two of its top pitching prospects, including newly acquired lefty Matthew Liberatore (No. 58 overall, per Pipeline). One would assume the Cardinals would have to overpay to pry the 2016 NL MVP away from their rivals, but in terms of “trade fits,” this one makes a lot of sense.