Kris Bryant’s name popped up in trade rumors on Tuesday when Nationals manager Dave Martinez told reporters that the Cubs’ former MVP has come up in conversations surrounding Washington’s offense. But Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo tempered the thought shortly after by saying the club hasn’t seriously discussed the possibility of adding Bryant in “probably two years.”
However quick the Hot Stove hysteria was, it speaks to where the Cubs are as they look to bring down payroll and retool the roster while keeping an eye toward the next contending core. It also shows that the trade rumors aren’t going away, even if the Cubs ultimately hold onto Bryant for the start of 2021.
With the way the market is shaping up, there’s nothing imminent or certain about Bryant being traded this winter. Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said last week that the club will look at moves that can help its future -- trading Bryant would bring in some top prospects and get his near $20 million salary off the books -- but the Cubs also wants to contend in 2021, and Hoyer is excited about the roster he has now.
“We're certainly very open to talking about that kind of transaction, but we've got a really good team that we're bringing back,” Hoyer said. “And I think that there's been a lot of focus on who's not here, and a lot of focus on who's gone, but I think at some point you've got to focus on -- go around the diamond and look at our team. I think we have a very good team.”
That includes Bryant right now. Scott Boras, Bryant’s agent, said on a media Zoom call Tuesday that Bryant is preparing to be a Cub and that his versatility helps a team with needs on the infield and in the outfield.
"When you talk to players about their performance, you just really have to focus on where they're at, what they're doing,” Boras said. “We just had a long meeting and conversation with Kris, and he's been working hard, looks great and is really preparing to be a Chicago Cub. That's what he knows and what he's done. He's been highly successful there, and we expect him to repeat that in 2021."
Boras emphasized that Bryant’s career-worst and injury-riddled performance this past shortened season -- a .206/.293/.351 slash line with just four home runs -- shouldn’t have much stock put into it.
"I think 2020, for a lot of players, is something where it's very hard to look at their work product and say that 2020 -- particularly for players who have been in the league for five years -- it might represent a four- or five-percent level of their career,” Boras said. “I know in Kris' case, the last few weeks of the season, he started playing at Kris Bryant levels and playing well. I don't think anyone is overly concerned about the track record of a player, other than you're going to look at the currency of his performance the last few years and you're going to look at the totality, and certainly that places him in a very elite place.
“I think that the Cubs obviously know KB very, very well. Jed knows him very, very well. They have great plans for him. We've talked to him about that -- what his role will be, a very important role going forward from 2020. He's a huge core of his team, as you'd expect from a player of his abilities."
Whether he stays or is traded, 2021 gives Bryant a chance to prove '20 was just a fluke. Boras said Cubs still have star players and suggested they should be able to compete in '21 under Hoyer.
“I guess when you have star wars, who best to handle it than the Jed-i,” Boras quipped. “So we’ll have to see.”