As most Seattle Mariners fans turn their attention to the Seahawks or Sounders, we are looking ahead to the 2019-2020 MLB off-season and according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, a few big names could be available.
Passan laid out a few of these big names last month and for a fanbase desperate for a winner, we will inevitably be asked some form of this question: ” are the Mariners going to be interested”, or “what would it cost”?
These are fair questions and, like a lot of things that happen in the off-season, the answer is complicated. First and foremost, we need to change the phrasing of one of the most common questions we see this off-season: “can the Mariners afford him”?
This question has been fair for most of the past decade but is no longer relevant because the answer is simply, yes. The Mariners can afford any player who will hit the trade market this winter. They have the prospects and they have the payroll. Instead of asking if Seattle can afford a player, the question now becomes “is it wise for Seattle to pay the freight necessary to get said player”?
And that is the question we will attempt to answer in regards to Chicago Cubs All-Star, Kris Bryant. To fully break this down, we need to answer a handful of question:
- Why are the Cubs willing to trade him?
- How good is he?
- What will he cost?
- Is there a fit?
- Is it worth it?
So let’s start right at the top.
Why are the Cubs willing to trade him?
It does seem odd, doesn’t it? The Cubs are a good team who are legitimate NL pennant contenders. So why give up a player like Bryant. Well, the answer has a lot to do with money. Bryant will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter after earning $13 million in his first go-around with arbitration.
He will likely make around $20 million next year and potentially $25-$30 million next season. That is a lot of cheddar. The Cubs already offered Bryant an extension rumored to be worth over $200 million and Bryant turned it down.
This leaves the Cubs with a few choices. They can either; 1. keep Bryant for 2 years, forking over $40 million and waiting until after 2021 to slap a qualifying offer on him, 2. keep Bryant for half of 2020 then trade him in July, 3. keep Bryant for 2020 and attempt to trade him next winter, 4. Trade him in July of 2021, or 5. trade him now.
Remember, every day Bryant spends on the Cubs is a chip out of Bryant’s trade value. So trading him this winter may be the best course of action to help restock their depleted farm system.
How good is he?
Kris Bryant is a really good player, but his days as an MVP candidate seem like a decade ago. In his first 3 season’s, Bryant averaged 6.5 bWAR with a .288/.388/.527 with 31 home runs and 82 walks.
Since then, Bryant has battled some injuries in 2018, posting a career-low 1.2 bWAR in 102 games and just 13 home runs. Bryant has bounced back nicely in 2019, posting a 3.4 bWAR with a week to go. His 31 home runs and .282/.381/.522 are right back in line with his first 3 seasons.
Bryant is a good base-runner and can steal a handful of bases. He is, at best, a fringe-average defender at third base and in the corner outfield. Overall, Bryant is an All-Star quality player but doesn’t reach the level of a superstar.
What will it cost?
To be blunt, a lot. It is almost inconceivable that the Mariners could lure Bryant from the Cubs without giving up at least one of Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, or Logan Gilbert, and maybe even 2 of the 3.
GM Jerry Dipoto is a creative GM, so trading a player or 2 of the big league roster could help limit the prospect cost/ But the only player that may be appealing enough to the Cubs to drop their prospect ask is Mitch Haniger.
Even if Haniger is in the deal, one of the “big 3” will still need to be in the deal. Something along the lines of Haniger, Gilbert, and Noelvi Marte may be a good start. But the exact cost isn’t important as much as the type of players we are talking about.
Is there a fit?
This is where things get a little iffy. Bryant’s club control expires after the 2021 season and as stated earlier, will likely earn at least $40 million in those two years. Acquiring a player cannot include the hopes and dreams of an extension. So, the Mariners can only focus on the next 2 years when discussing Bryant.
Acquiring Bryant would be a win-now move for a team that won’t be ready to compete until 2021. A trade for Bryant would be a clear sign that the Mariners consider themselves World Series contenders in 2020, meaning several other additions would be required for such a move to make sense.
In a perfect world, Bryant is here for year-1 of your window. Hardly a good fit.
Is it worth it?
Ultimately, it is hard to reach any decision other than no. It is just too early to be so aggressive. Now, if Seattle did acquire Bryant, they would still have the same options like the ones listed above for the Cubs. But remember, every day Bryant is on the Mariners, his value goes down.
To justify such a deal, Dipoto would have to go out and land multiple, mid-rotation arms, and perhaps even an ace like Jacob deGrom to make it a real possibility. At the end of the day, trading for Bryant is more of a finishing move for a rebuilding team than a move in the middle of a rebuild.
After 2020, a player like Bryant could make a ton of sense for Seattle. But you can’t force timing in a rebuild and in this case, the time is not right.