— Matt Marrone (@thebigm) November 9, 2018
In the article, Olney said that Theo Epstein, Cubs head of baseball operations, doesn’t believe in “untouchables,” and that while it would be difficult to envision what it would take to acquire a player like Bryant, or even first baseman Anthony Rizzo, he wouldn’t limit himself.
The Cubs are in a peculiar spot. Olney said in his piece that they lack payroll flexibility going forward, and they have a need to improve their farm system. Trading a player of Bryant’s caliber would certainly address both of those needs.
Bryant is expected to make as much as $12.4 million in arbitration this winter, as estimated by MLB Trade Rumors. The Cubs have several huge contracts already on their payroll. Trading Bryant frees them of having to pay him in arbitration, and any trade would return several top prospects.
The San Diego Padres have the most top prospects in baseball, having 10 ranked in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100. If the Padres wanted to acquire Bryant from the Cubs, they have more than enough prospect capital to make it happen. The Padres also have the payroll flexibility to sign Bryant to a multiyear contract.
A trade for Bryant is well within the realm of possibility, but the probability is extraordinarily low. The Padres do have a glaring need at third base. Christian Villanueva played third for San Diego a majority of the first half of the season. The team experimented with Wil Myers at the position during the second half.
The team will spend the winter looking for a third baseman, whether it be through free agency or a trade. They have already been mentioned in rumors to be interested in Eugenio Suarez (Cincinnati Reds) and Maikel Franco (Philadelphia Phillies).
Suarez is coming off an All-Star season where he hit .283/.366/.526 with 34 home runs. The Padres haven’t had that kind of production from a third baseman in years. Think Ken Caminiti during the late 90s.
Suarez is under contract until the end of the 2024 season, and he’ll make north of $60 million over those six seasons. He has a $15 million team option for 2025. What would it take to acquire Suarez? The answer, far less than it would take to acquire Bryant. It would also be a much better situation for San Diego in the long term. They would have their third baseman for at least the next six years, and he would come with a team-friendly contract.
It would take several top prospects to acquire Bryant, the kind of prospects with which the Padres would not want to part. Their top pitching prospect, left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore, would be a part of the discussion. Gore is expected to rise quickly through the minors and could make his major league debut as early as 2020. Other pitching prospects, like Anderson Espinoza and Adrian Morejon, would also be in that discussion. Their top catching prospect, Francisco Mejia, might also be included.
The Padres are in a good position to make a run in the near future with what they currently have on the farm. Bryant is one of the best from this current generation of baseball players, and landing him would certainly awaken what has been a sleeping fan base.
However, Bryant would come at great cost, and that cost could certainly jeopardize the team’s long-term future. The Padres will have a new face at third base next season, but it won’t be Kris Bryant.
Bryant will be the Cubs’ starting third baseman on Opening Day next April. Readers should take the headline of Olney’s article to be nothing more than clickbait. Move along, there’s nothing to see here.