Here’s the thing that makes Kris Bryant such a desirable commodity on the trade market, now that it looks like the Cubs are officially going to be sellers: Pretty much every single contending team can look at Bryant and think, “Yep, we’ve got a spot for him!”
That’s rare with a position player, but Bryant has all kinds of versatility. Basically, he’s not a middle infielder or a catcher, but that’s it: Just this year alone, he’s started 15 games at third base, 13 in right field, 10 in left field, eight at first base and four in center field. He’s not necessarily a Gold Glove guy at any position, but he’s certainly capable at each position, which adds a lot of extra value.
And he doesn’t mind moving around, even during games. We listed his “games started” totals, but here’s the total number of games he’s played at each position: 24 at third, 20 in right, 14 in left field, 10 at first and 10 in center. It’s a manager’s dream to be able to go all queens gambit with defensive positioning.
He’s a free agent after this year, which means he’s a rental. For some teams, that’s bad. For some, it’s good. But if the goal is to get to October — or win a World Series — that’s a minor detail, not a roadblock. This year, he was great in April and May, then crummy in June. He’s batting .348 in July’s six-game small sample size.
Where will he be in August? Let’s take a look at six potential destinations.
Why he fits: We’re trying to cover all the bases here. This doesn’t seem likely — the Yankees already have too many right-handed hitters in their lineup — but if one of the goals is to add a bat and they don’t like the left-handed options on the trade market, they could do worse than Bryant. Aaron Judge is having a fine year in right field, but let’s take a look at the OPS+ numbers for the players who have manned left field for the Yankees this year …
Miguel Andujar: 83
Clint Frazier: 77
Brett Gardner: 70
Tim Locastro: 43 (including his time in Arizona)
Mike Tauchman: 54
Remember, the league average number for that stat is 100. So, basically, every left fielder the Yankees have used this season has been well below league average. Yeah, they could use Bryant, and don’t forget he could spell Gardner (and his .189 batting average) in center, too, though he’s probably not a full-time answer there.
Why he fits: Hey, don’t laugh. The Mariners are four games above .500, tied with the Blue Jays in the wild-card race (3 1/2 out of the second spot) and have a better record than the Yankees. For a franchise that hasn’t been in the postseason since 2001 — the longest streak in baseball — you know they’ll at least explore options. And remember their GM? The compulsive trader himself, Jerry DiPoto. It’s not impossible to think he could trade for Bryant now, then move him again before the July 30 deadline if the ensuing few weeks are a disaster. Seattle’s pitching is serviceable, but the offense needs help. Kyle Seager’s established at third, and same with Mitch Haniger in right, but Bryant would be an upgrade in left field or DH.
Why he fits: As we’ve said before, it’s far from certain that the Braves will be buyers. They’ve had a lot of problems finding any traction at all this year. But they’re still only a handful of games out of first in the NL East, and trading for Bryant would kind of be taking the slugger away from another team that would benefit from KB’s bat (spoiler). Add Bryant, stick him at third base and move Austin Riley to the outfield (he’s a better hot-corner defender than Riley), win NL East. Simple as that, right?
Why he fits: Would the Cubs REALLY trade Bryant to the division rival that just sprinted past them in June and delivered the crushing blow to Chicago’s 2021 season? If the only goal is to build a better team, and the Brewers make the best offer, yeah, they absolutely should trade him up the road to Milwaukee. Sure, the Brewers are a rival of the Cubs, but it’s not like they’re the Cardinals, right? It’s not that kind of century-long rivalry.
The Brewers have had all kinds of injury issues this year, and while making low-risk deals for a guy such as Rowdy Tellez could possibly work out, adding an established bat such as Bryant figures to make a much bigger impact. He could play center field on days when the club wants more offense from the position. He could play third base if Luis Urias — who has 12 homers in 83 games this year, after six in 124 career games heading into 2021 — slows down, or if he’s needed at another position. He could play first if Tellez doesn’t find his batting stroke. The Brewers are a team that will contend for the NL’s spot in the World Series, and adding a versatile middle-of-the-order bat like Bryant is pretty much exactly what they need.
Why he fits: Look, this is an Oakland team that has the pieces to finally make that long-awaited deep run into October. Well, most of the pieces. The A’s could use another impact bat. Obviously, Bryant wouldn’t play third as long as Matt Chapman’s healthy, but he’d be an immediate upgrade at either corner outfield spot or the DH. And while lots of teams would view Bryant’s status as a rental as a bad thing, the lack of financial commitments might actually be seen as a bonus for the A’s.
Why he fits: It’s probably not a surprise that the Mets are in the top spot here, considering that they were listed as the most likely potential destination in the piece earlier this week. No contender needs an offensive kick in the pants more than the Mets. Sure, maybe the biggest problem is that they just need their established guys to hit better — hi, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto and Francisco Lindor — but at some point a team with visions of winning the World Series title can’t just sit around and wait. Adding Bryant’s versatile bat to the lineup is kind of a dream solution. J.D. Davis was rolling before landing on the IL; when he comes back, maybe Bryant shifts to outfield? Bryant gives a team lots of options.
Oh, and there’s this: Imagine the Mets losing multiple 1-0 or 2-1 games in a playoff series — the 1-0 would be Jacob deGrom’s start, of course — after not making any sort of move to add a bat before the deadline? Mets fans would not be happy (and neither would the players).