The Chicago Cubs’ entire offseason was slowed down due to Kris Bryant’s service time grievance, but now that Bryant will be under team control for two more seasons the Cubs can fully explore all options.
A process that started in 2015 is finally coming to an end, as Cubs star third baseman Kris Bryant has reportedly lost his grievance against the Cubs for service time manipulation.
The decision comes as no surprise as many had reported that Bryant was unlikely to win the case, but with the 28-year-old becoming a more active member of the MLB Players Union it makes sense why Bryant would continue to follow through with this grievance even if the winning wasn’t expected.
So, beyond Bryant being under team control for two more years, what does this mean for the Cubs and their former MVP?
Bryant has been in trade rumors all offseason as the Cubs consider some kind of rebuild. With the grievance finally settled, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein can truly consider shopping Bryant, and there are already rumors flying.
For starters, there are conflicting reports about Bryant and his feelings towards the Cubs. Bob Nightengale of USA Today is claiming that Bryant will be arriving at Spring Training “peeved” at the Cubs, while Chicago Sun-Times reporter Gordon Wittenmyer says, Bryant holds “no ill will” towards his team. Confused? Well, just wait because after both those reports came out, ESPN’s Jesse Rodgers went on the radio and reported that the Rockies and Cubs had discussed a trade involving Bryant and Nolan Arenando.
To go along with this report, Jeff Passan of ESPN hopped on ESPN 1000 with David Kaplan and talked about Arenado having an interest in playing for the Cubs, capping off what was an unexpectedly eventful morning in Chicago. Passan also shut the door on Kaplan’s trade proposal involving catcher Willson Contreras, outfielder Jason Heyward and his massive contract for Arenado and his even larger contract saying, “The Rockies would hang up.”
Earlier this week, I tried to figure out the direction Epstein planned on steering this Cubs team for 2020, saying it would all come down to the Bryant grievance. And now that it’s been settled, the Cubs are looking as active as they’ve been this offseason — though that isn’t saying much. With just outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and reliever Jeremey Jeffress as the only two players the Cubs have signed to major league contracts, the clear goal is for the Cubs to get under the luxury tax.
Trading Bryant would do that, but if the goal for 2020 is to remain competitive while also adding talent for the future it’s going to be hard to accomplish those both by just trading Bryant.
With the Cubs payroll already over the first luxury tax threshold of $208 million and a roster that still needs a few more additions, it’s hard to see the Cubs retaining Bryant while also bettering themselves for the future and not being a repeat offender of the luxury tax.
It’s sad, because there really isn’t a reason the Cubs can’t afford to go over the luxury tax once again — ticket prices are on a constant rise, they have a new TV network debuting this year, and massive renovations have been completed around Wrigley Field.
However, ownership still refused to spend once again this offseason while telling fans to expect change.
In the end, with the Bryant case decided, the Cubs finally have clarity on the market value of their best asset, the one chip that might have been used to make the most change.
But by this point it’s late January, the roster remains relatively intact and Spring Training is less than two weeks away. It’s becoming harder and harder to see the Cubs making any franchise-altering moves this late in the offseason.