News of Mookie Betts being traded from the Red Sox to the Dodgers in what amounted to a massive salary dump made waves almost big enough to put out the flames from pieces of paper being ripped up publicly. Along with the all-world outfielder, Boston shipped lefty David Price and enough cash to cover more than half of his remaining $96 million salary to LA in exchange for a pair of prospects.
One of those prospects came over as part of a three-team deal that saw righty Kenta Maeda shipped to the Twins. In a separate move, Joc Pederson and outfield prospect Andy Pages, along with a possible mystery “big league starter,” were sent to the Angels in exchange for a pair of prospects. By the time the dust settles, the Dodgers will have strengthened the hell out of their lineup while somehow REMAINING UNDER THE COMPETITIVE BALANCE TAX THRESHOLD.
Okay, cool, now what does that mean for the Cubs? One way to look at it is to say that it removes the team that may have been the best fit in terms of a potential trade for Kris Bryant, thereby ensuring he remains in Chicago. Yet another is to say that it could give a team like the Padres, who were reportedly hot after Betts, more incentive to go after the less expensive Bryant. Finally, there’s the possibility that Boston accepting a very low player package in exchange for financial relief means the Cubs may have cover to do more of the same.
Two AL execs tell me criticism of #RedSox is misplaced.
*Two talented youngsters with greater value than draft pick if Betts had left as FA.
*Ability to get under threshold and re-set penalty rate to minimum.
*$40M-$50M in payroll flexibility in coming seasons.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 5, 2020
While that last part seems far-fetched at this juncture, it appears as though other teams are hoping the Cubs are now willing to lower an asking price that has been called “obscene” and “a joke” to this point. David Kaplan tweeted Wednesday morning that “multiple NL teams have contacted Cubs offering packages of prospects/young players” for Bryant. He went on to reiterate something we’ve long assumed, which is that he’s unsure whether a deal is done before the start of the season, at which point the Cubs would likely wait until the July 31 trade deadline.
With Betts now traded I have confirmed multiple NL teams have contacted Cubs re: Bryant offering packages of prospects/young players. Unsure if a deal gets done before Opening Day. If one doesn't Cubs probably hang on to him until July trade deadline. Tune in NOW on @ESPN1000
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) February 5, 2020
Though I have remained firmly opposed to the idea of trading Bryant, it does seem as though the Cubs would be able to extract a bigger return if they wait to make a move. Of course, that would also mean they lose any and all leverage they’ve got as a team that can still plausibly claim they’re attempting to contend for the postseason. The only way they’d be moving Bryant in July is if they’ve fallen out of the race, which would be all kinds of weak sauce.
Trading him now would be like punting on second down, though maybe that’s better than playing an in-between game that has seen the Cubs hover around the tax threshold while failing to make any moves of significance this winter. I’ll be unhappy with any potential deal, but if they make a move like the Sox aimed primarily at cutting salary, I’ll go apeshit. Regardless of how they choose to proceed, the Bryant rumors aren’t going to stop until he’s either traded or extended.
The latter option sure would be a good way for the organization to regain some of the goodwill they’ve lost over the last two seasons, though there’s been no traction to speak of on that front. A trade, on the other hand, would give the Cubs the wherewithal to pursue an impact player in free agency next season. Hey, wait a minute, wouldn’t that be the same as trying to work out an extension for Bryant that kicks in next season?