Rozner: Could Cubs walk away from Kris Bryant?

On Thursday morning, MLB Network treated fans to a segment that made that group just the latest to suggest the Cubs could trade Kris Bryant.

As usual, there was no logic behind the attempt to find Bryant a landing spot, as the commentators looked for teams with prospects that could match up with the Cubs.

Prospects? The Cubs are going to trade Kris Bryant for prospects. And this helps them rebound in 2020 how exactly?

Since arriving in Chicago in 2015, only three National League players have collected a higher WAR than Bryant, those being Nolan Arenado, Christian Yelich and Paul Goldschmidt.

And you want to trade Bryant for prospects.

Last we looked, the Cubs are trying to win next year, not rebuild, so if they were trading Bryant it would be for one of the players listed above, or someone of comparable value.

This is the absurdity that naturally follows an ugly ending to a historical playoff run. Experts and fans alike are trading everyone in sight to fix each problem with the flip of a switch.

Every player who was bad this year should be traded, even though their value has plummeted, and everyone who was good this year should stay, even though they are the players with value and could be dealt for reasonable return.

OK, good plan.

This brings us back to the Cubs Convention early this year, when Theo Epstein discussed the lack of movement before the 2019 season, and why there was much he wanted to do, but couldn't.

Much of it centered on the 2018 Cubs who underperformed, making it unrealistic to deal them for the assets Epstein coveted.

"Every team has to go into every offseason as nimble as they can be, with as much payroll flexibility as possible, with as many trade assets as possible, with as many guys coming off career years as possible, because it puts you in a better position," Epstein said. "There are more possibilities out there to add players, make trades, sign free agents.

"We've had a lot of years where all those things have gone well and lined up. Those have been the offseasons where we've been more active and gotten a lot of credit for all our moves.

"This year because decisions we've made the last couple years haven't worked out, because a number of guys had down years, because we had a number of players not live up to expectations, because some of the contracts we have are not as movable as we expected them to be at this point, we are not in that position.

"We have nowhere near the flexibility we normally have, we're not as nimble as we normally are and the world of possibilities is much smaller than we're used to. That's just the reality.

"It's not going to be that way every year. That's the way it is right now."

Epstein did not name names, nor did he have to, but he never expected Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Addison Russell, Albert Almora, Jason Heyward, Ian Happ and Tyler Chatwood to all be here again in 2019.

But some didn't perform well, had bad contracts or both.

That remains a problem for some of the aforementioned.

Given that the Cubs are already in the luxury tax and that most of their biggest contracts can't be moved, Epstein will have to look for creative ways to improve for 2020 without the opportunity to spend much in free agency.

At the same time, trading Bryant for prospects doesn't exactly fit their two-year window, with contracts or team control expiring after 2021 for Bryant, Schwarber, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester, not to mention Epstein himself, who will have reached 10 years in Chicago, a number he once said is the proper limit for anyone in any big-league job.

Epstein is angry and there will be changes, but trading Bryant doesn't seem like one of them because trading Bryant doesn't make you a better team unless you get something extraordinary in return.

Bryant averaged 6.5 WAR the first three years of his career and seems a better bet to get near that next year than the 5.4 combined WAR the last two injury-plagued seasons.

There are very few untouchables on this club, so just about anyone is in play, but the notion of trading the likes of Bryant for prospects sort of misses the point.

The window is now.

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