It’s not a question of if the Dodgers bring in a big right handed bat, it’s a question of when and who. First the rumors were around Lindor. Then Arenado was suppose to be a Dodger by Christmas, but he was quoted saying he doesn’t think the fans would like him. Now Bryant is supposedly the backup’s backup as far as big name targets.
Quite frankly, it’s a lot more likely than the Dodgers trading away the farm for a year of Lindor, or an under-appreciated Arenado opting out for elsewhere.
So what would Bryant bring to the table? What would the Dodgers have to give up? Is the struggling, once MVP Bryant even worth it?
- Kris Bryant Career
- Our Proposal
Bryant was the 2nd overall pick of the 2013 draft. Even with the high expectations, Bryant began to crush almost immediately. He has a career OPS over 1.000 at every level of the Minors. By 2015, he was the #1 overall prospect in the MLB and ready to make his major league debut.
He was the face of hope for the Cubs franchise and he delivered. At 23 he became a starter for an on the cusp Cubs team and lead them to a playoff berth while winning ROY, his first all star appearance, and even an 11th place finish in MVP.
He slashed .275/.369/.488 for an OPS+ of 135 with 31 doubles, 5 triples, 26 homers, 87 runs, 99 RBI, and even 13 SB. He did lead the league with 199 strikeouts, but overall it was almost everything Cubs fans could want. The rest came in 2016.
Bryant followed up his ROY campaign with another all star and MVP year. The Cubs even won the World Series for the first time in about a century. He slashed .292/.385/.554 to up his OPS+ to 146. He hit a career high 39 homers scoring a league leading 121 runs to go with 102 RBI. He improved in just about every way the Cubs could hope.
He had an almost identical, but less flashy, season in 2017. This time he would only finish 7th in MVP voting. He stayed well above average in 2018 and ’19 but the thrill had worn off. More was expected, and his .903 OPS in 2019 seemed almost disappointing considering he was 27.
So what changed from years past to Bryant in 2020? The biggest culprit we found? He couldn’t catch up to heaters last year. Bryant has consistently been ELITE against fastballs in his career so far.
Even as recent as 2019 he had a run value of 19 extra runs against the fastball. He OPS’d a massive 1.188 against them. In fact he OPS’d over 1.000 against fastballs 3 of the last 4 years before 2020. The outlier was still an OPS of .979.
His 2020 OPS against fastballs, a mere .746. He had his best year ever against off speed pitches, but pitchers took notice. He only received off speed pitches 7% of the time versus fastballs 56.5% of the time. In turn, it also lead to his worst performance against off speed pitches ever.
So we’re giving the consistent star the benefit of the doubt. He had a fluke year where he never quite caught up. It happened to some guys last year. We have every reason to believe Bryant will return to at least a 15% better than average batter next year. Especially after watching this breakdown on MLB Network. Bryant shifted his center of gravity forward (towards the pitcher) in 2020, giving him less time to wrap around fastballs.
His career totals are .280/.380/.508 after all. An OPS+ of 134 over a respectable 740 major league games. He and Seager would be the best left side of the infield in baseball and that’s saying something. Defensively Bryant can handle himself at the corners of the infield and outfield. Perfect for the ever rotating Dodgers.
So after all the fight to keep Bryant for that extra year, the Cubs are best off trading him during it.
- Cubs Send
- Kris Bryant (1 year $18.6 million) and Craig Kimbrel (2 years, $32 million) + $15 million
- Dodgers Send
- Joe Kelly, Matt Beaty, Mitch White (9th), and PTBN (Lower level)
The Cubs biggest needs this offseason are contact hitting, starting pitching, and the bullpen. Matt Beaty is a king of contact with regular playing time. Mitch White is capable of starting or relieving at the major league level. As for the PTBN, the Cubs can pick a low level prospect where they see fit.
The Dodgers need a right handed bat that can hit like Justin Turner and will also look to fill up their pen. It’s obvious that the Dodgers would want Kris Bryant if they also assume last year was an outlier. But Kimbrel is an expensive risk that’s more of a benefit for the Cubs if the Dodgers take him on.
That’s why in our deal the Cubs need to subsidize his salary. Otherwise, the Dodger’s would be wiping a way too high, $50 million off the rebuilding Cubs roster ahead of schedule. In a market like this, even wiping $30 million of salary for a club is almost worth a trade alone. (We’ve since changed the trade to include Kelly and his salary)
Still, the veteran reliever is only turning 33 and has only had a bad 35 innings over the past couple years. As recent as 2018, Kimbrel went 5-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 42 saves in 62.1 IP. That was enough to muster an all star appearance. His 7th total.
He was the Rookie of the Year in 2011, a Cy Young vote getter 5 times finishing as high as 4th, and a 3 time MVP vote recipient. He finished as high as 8th. A ridiculous resume for a reliever and a change of scenery may help the likely HOFer back to closable form.
Overall, we think the Bryant aspect of this trade is possible. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, they would probably have to p[ay more than other clubs for Bryant. The Cubs just sold off Darvish for a bargain though. The Dodgers can make a similar offer easily for 1 year of Bryant. Basically anything the Cubs get for Bryant beyond 1 draft pick is a bonus at this point.
However, we’re just dreaming with the Kimbrel portion. We doubt these sides could reach an agreement considering how much money is involved when you throw him into the mix. The Dodgers would likely have to move someone with a large amount of salary in order to make it work.
But the Dodgers will still do something in the realm of the Turner dilemma. Maybe it’s possible Turner is willing to play for less if it means a lineup so loaded it’d be a disappointment for anything less than a back to back Ship. Maybe the Dodgers are willing to move on from Turner if they can get Bryant for a little bit more.