By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The stove has begun to heat up on the Red Sox offseason. Could Chaim Bloom be ready to make his first splash and trade for a former MVP?
In a column for the Chicago Tribute on Monday, Cubs beat writer Mark Gonzales named the Red Sox as a possible trade partner for the Cubs if they want to offload Kris Bryant this offseason.
"Two sources confirmed the Red Sox and Cubs discussed Bryant this summer, but those talks faded," Gonzales writes. Despite having a budding superstar at third base in Rafael Devers, Gonzales indicates "the Red Sox would envision Bryant as a left fielder." Bryant is primarily a third baseman, but has played 172 of his career 740 major league games in the outfield.
Given their start to the season, the Red Sox were likely in no rush to improve their roster during the 2020 season. But now starting with a fresh slate, could the talks pick back up again?
Assuming Bryant can handle a full-time move to left field, it makes sense. The Red Sox need an experienced bat for the top of their lineup, and Bryant projects as a low-risk, high-reward option.
Bryant was one of the most anticipated prospects in baseball after being taken second overall in 2013. Early on in his career he lived up to the hype, winning NL Rookie of the Year in 2015. He followed that by taking home the NL MVP award the next year.
However, Bryant's momentum came to a screeching halt last season. The 28-year-old hit just .206, with four home runs in 34 games. He posted an OPS of just .644, almost 200 points below his previous career-low.
On top of that, Bryant is entering the final years of his contract. He's due $18.6 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Cubs have a number of key players with expiring deals and likely won't be able to pay them all, which is what makes a player like Bryant available.
This is why it makes sense for the Red Sox to explore a deal. Bryant is a prime 'change of scenery' candidate who's team is looking for a reason to get rid of him. If he pans out, Boston adds an MVP-caliber bat under the age of 30. Now past their luxury tax reset, they could look to sign him to a long-term deal next offseason.
Even if they don't want to keep him long-term, Bloom could still use a successful Bryant as a chip to rebuild the Red Sox farm system. This could be done by letting him sign elsewhere in free agency and picking up a high-level compensation pick, or even dealing him at the deadline if the Red Sox aren't contenders in July.
Of course, there's always the possibility he doesn't work out, and his slump from 2020 continues. Even if that's the case, the Red Sox could part ways with him after the season. Assuming they don't send two gaudy of a return to Chicago to acquire him, it's no harm, no foul.
So what would it take to get Bryant to Boston? The Red Sox could center a package around their own struggling young outfielder, Andrew Benintendi.
Benintendi and Bryant have had similar career trajectories to this point. While Bryant has been the better player, both proved to be reliable, well rounded hitters at a young age before taking a steep nosedive in 2020.
Following his unproductive and injury-riddled 2020, many have wondered if a change of pace is what Andrew Benintendi needs. From Cincinnati, a return to the Midwest could be just what he needs. The same could be said for Bryant, who's father is from Massachusetts and played in the Red Sox minor league system.
While history indicates Bryant's upside is higher, Benintendi is three years younger and has an extra year of control on his contract, via arbitration. Would the Cubs be willing to make that tradeoff as they rebuild their roster? The addition of a couple of mid-level prospects may be enough to sway them. General manager Jed Hoyer just signed a five-year extension on Monday, and should approach this offseason with a more long-term approach.
When he is on his game, Bryant is a disciplined hitter who can spray the ball to any part of the ballpark. Boston's analytics-driven approach, with Alex Cora back in the drivers seat, could help him find his swing again. If the Red Sox are trying to jumpstart their rebuild and immediately return to competition - without any long-term investments - he's the exact kind of player they should be targeting.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].