Rumor: Braves re-engage Cubs in Kris Bryant trade talks
The Atlanta Braves hoped Josh Donaldson would return to be their third baseman for the foreseeable future. Instead, Donaldson signed a four-year deal with the Minnesota Twins, creating a glaring hole at the hot corner for the Braves and general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
However, the Braves have the kind of prospect capital and payroll flexibility to trade for an impact star, and ESPN Chicago Cubs beat reporter Jesse Rogers reports Atlanta has re-engaged the Cubs in trade talks involving Kris Bryant during an appearance on ESPN 1000:
According to @ESPNChiCubs on ESPN 1000:
The Atlanta Braves have re-engaged in talks with the Chicago Cubs about Kris Bryant.
No traction on a Javier Baez extension.
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) January 16, 2020
David O’Brien of The Athletic previously reported the Braves were not exactly thrilled at the idea of trading for Bryant or Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado to replace Donaldson at third:
#Braves have prospects to trade for Bryant or Arenado, but haven't been gung-ho on either — Arenado because of multi-prospect outlay, long-term financial commitmant & contract opt-out after '21. Bryant 3B defense not great at this point, plus don't know yet if 1 or 2 yrs control
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) January 15, 2020
Atlanta had seemed to pivot toward signing a free-agent outfielder, and they reached out to both Marcell Ozuna and Nicholas Castellanos:
Braves do like Marcell Ozuna. It’s believed they at least touched base with Castellanos too, but Ozuna seems more likely. They need middle of order bar to replace Donaldson. Might be easier to go the free agent OF route than fashion blockbuster for superstar 3B Arenado or Bryant.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 15, 2020
However, it appears they are doing their due diligence on Bryant with Donaldson out of the picture.
The former 2016 National League MVP is still awaiting a final decision on the service-time grievance he filed against the Cubs. Though it is expected he will lose that decision, it is impacting Bryant’s trade value because a decision in his favor would make him a free agent after the 2020 season rather than after the 2021 campaign.
Still, Bryant could present the best fit for the Braves. Atlanta already possess depth in the outfield, and top prospects like Christian Pache and Drew Waters are nearing their big-league debuts. While one of those two would likely go to Chicago in a hypothetical Bryant trade, the Braves still have options.
Should they fail to acquire an impact third baseman, they will have to rely on Johan Camargo (.279) and Austin Riley (36.4 percent strikeout rate) to fill the hole, which seems less than ideal.