As the New York Yankees go into free agency looking to make high-priced additions yet again just like every single year, is there an upgrade out there that would constitute a better use of their time? More importantly, could they decide to use the trade market to their advantage and save a little bit of money for 2020 and beyond?
With their name popping up in every free-agent chatter that involves an annual salary starting with a 2 or 3 and is eight figures per season, a drastic shift for this team would represent the franchise holding back on spending some of their money, not breaking the luxury tax threshold and actually being a competitive team because of their shrewd moves and player development and not just because they went out and spent more money than every other team.
On the flip side, a team like the Chicago Cubs, who just like the Yankees have spent a ton of money year in and year out with mixed results, are consciously looking to shed payroll and lock up other players with that money saved. A core piece of their team that has been consistently mentioned in potential trade talks is third baseman Kris Bryant, who has called Wrigley Field home for his entire professional baseball career.
Even as Gio Urshela was brought back from the scrap heap to become a key catalyst down the stretch for the Bronx Bombers, he is a replaceable aspect of this team that could ultimately become a utility piece if Kris Bryant was to be acquired. And for the first time in what seems to be a very long time, the Yankees actually have a competitive minor-league system that has a ton of untapped talent in it that could help facilitate a trade.
When the Cubs and Yankees interacted on the Aroldis Chapman deal back in July of 2016, the Yankees had originally shipped out four prospects to the Cincinnati Reds for his services in January of that same season, completing a full-circle effect for Chapman as he made his return to the National League Central division. In the deal with the Cubs, the top-flight prospect in this deal is still on the Yankees, as Gleyber Torres has kinda, sorta, become the household name that they hoped he would when they made the deal.
If these two teams were to get involved again in trade talks for a top-notch player, then Bryant would fit the bill for the Yankees to a ‘T.’ Lacking that solid hot-corner option ever since Alex Rodriguez retired, and having missed out on rumored target Nolan Arenado, the only big free agent that would fit the bill would be Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals.
While Rendon would be a great addition as well, the type of financial commitment Rendon is looking for should scare the Yankees away, even if he is worth it. By adding a player like Bryant, they could take advantage of his final few cheaper seasons before he needs a new contract.
In 2019, Bryant faced some injury issues but did suit up in 148 games and started all but three of those. His .282 average, .382 on-base percentage, .521 slugging percentage, .903 OPS, and 3.6 WAR all were the highest they have been in his career since 2017, and his 31 home runs were the second-most he has put up in one season, behind the 39 long balls he mashed in 2016.
Bringing Kris Bryant to the Bronx in his final season of arbitration before becoming a free agent would be yet another shrewd move made by the Yankees and would represent a change from the status quo for the Cubs. While trading a franchise cornerstone is not a normal card for any franchise to play, it would turn this winter’s offseason completely on its head, hopefully producing much more player movement than last year and making fans feel that baseball is officially back to what it used to be.