Bryant trade rumors continue to run rampant
In a time of constant upheaval, it's actually kind of refreshing to see a continuing trend.
Kris Bryant is back on the rumor mill.
The Cubs' star third baseman was the focus of nonstop trade talk last winter, and the speculation is continuing unabated this year.
Depending on what you believe, Bryant is going to be moved to the Nationals, Braves or Blue Jays. Or, the Dodgers, Astros or Red Sox.
Why unload a player who was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2015 and MVP and World Series champion the following season?
The question is still fair, and the answer is pretty much the same as it was the last time around.
Bryant is eligible for free agency after the 2021 season, and he's expected to earn a salary in the $20 million range before being eligible to walk away.
An extension remains the obvious option for keeping Bryant in a Cubs uniform, and new president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer was asked about that possibility Monday after agreeing to a five-year contract as Theo Epstein's replacement.
"None ongoing right now, but we certainly have players on this roster we'd love to have here for a long time," Hoyer said. "At some point in the future, I think we'll probably pick those up, but right now there's nothing ongoing."
Even though he is still a premier player, Bryant's game has noticeably slipped in two of the past three seasons due to injuries.
In 2018, he was limited to 102 games by a shoulder issue. This past season, multiple ailments limited Bryant to 34 games in the COVID-19 shortened year, and he hit .206/.293/.351 with 4 home runs and 11 RBI.
As he approaches his 29th birthday, it's not a stretch to say Bryant's value has never been lower.
That doesn't mean teams aren't interested in acquiring him in a trade, but the return for the Cubs would not be much.
No matter where he's playing, Bryant said he's going to focus on getting in the best shape possible this winter.
"I'm going to address everything," he told reporters at the end of the season. "Not just for baseball, but for my overall well-being. I don't want to wake up when I'm 50 with my back going out. I'm going to do what I need to do this off-season to make sure I'm feeling fine."
All of the trade talk last year turned out to be just that, and Bryant stayed put.
With neither Hoyer nor Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts interested in doing a full-blown rebuild, Bryant could very well be back in 2021.
"First of all, without specifying Kris, we have a lot of great players on this roster," Hoyer said. "We had some guys that had great years last year, and we had some guys that had down years. I certainly wouldn't speculate about the future of any one guy at this point."
In addition to finding a new general manager to fill his old job, Hoyer does have a long list of roster decisions to make. This is typically the time of year when player movement begins, but the coronavirus has slowed activity to a crawl.
"I think with this off-season, there is a lot of uncertainty," Hoyer said. "I think it's probably going to move a little bit slower than some off-seasons. I think we may try to get a sense of the landscape before we move forward.
"Certainly, we're not going to wait forever, but I do think waiting a little bit and trying to figure out exactly what happens this winter makes a lot of sense."