Jesse Rogers of ESPN released an article this morning explaining why the Braves are a perfect fit for Kris Bryant with Anthony Rendon off the market. Following the decision by Washington’s star third baseman to head west, Rogers understandably questions if Atlanta will change their tune and hand out a long-term contract, which is what will be required to land Josh Donaldson, who now has a multitude of suitors that will be willing to spend big money.
If not, the Braves are going to have to turn to the trade market to acquire a third baseman – unless they are willing to accept a substantial drop off at the position – and according to Rogers, nobody makes more sense than Kris Bryant.
The former NL MVP has two more years of arbitration remaining on his contract, which will pay him around $45 million – less than what Donaldson would cost. Plus, the Braves could avoid taking the risk of offering a 34-year-old with a significant injury history a four-year contract worth possibly more than $100 million. However, Anthopoulos would have to be willing to part ways with some top prospects and even some major league talent, something he has been hesitant to do to this point.
With that being said, the fit in terms of the Braves’ young talent and the Cubs’ needs couldn’t be more perfect. For Bryant, it will require at least one major league ready player. That could be fellow third baseman Austin Riley, or a starting pitcher like Mike Foltynewicz or Max Fried, combined with budding arms on the farm like Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright. Drew Waters should also attract quite a bit of interest from the Cubs, who are looking for a center fielder that can bat leadoff. Waters may not be ready for a couple of months, but he does fit that bill.
The Braves have all the pieces for this to work, and their Manager seems to be on board – even if the front office has yet to show any interest in the Cubs third baseman as they wait to see what Donaldson decides. According to Rogers, Brian Snitker believes Bryant would “fit in perfectly” in Atlanta. Rogers also cites Bryant’s championship pedigree, something he shares in common with his former teammate Cole Hamels, who the Braves recently signed to a one-year deal. You have to think if Anthopoulos is seriously considering Bryant, that Hamels – whose word is respected around the league – had some nice things to say.
However, this process has another hoop to jump through before it gets started. Bryant has a case regarding his service time which could make him a free agent after the 2020 season. Obviously, that would significantly impact his trade value. And according to Rogers, a decision likely won’t be made until January at the latest. Rogers speculates that there could be a situation where two separate deals are agreed upon – one for two years of control and another for one year of control.
Despite early reports that the Braves have yet to begin trade talks with the Cubs around Kris Bryant, it is undeniable how much sense this would make for both sides, providing Chicago’s asking price is not astronomical. And if the Braves were to go this route, they may be able to add even more to their team because of it.
Bryant will probably make at least $10 million less than Donaldson in 2019. Might that open room for Atlanta to add another outfield bat like Marcell Ozuna, who they have reported interest in, as well. Or perhaps they add another starting pitcher to their rotation. Remember, the Braves have $32 million coming off the books at the end of 2020 in the form of Mark Melancon and Cole Hamels alone. They have room to maneuver here, and getting Bryant on a reasonable salary for the next two seasons should allow them to continue to make adjustments where they see fit.
So I understand why everyone wants the Braves to land Josh Donaldson. He was unbelievable for Atlanta last season, but signing him to a four-year, $100 million+ type deal carries just as much risk as giving up top prospects – maybe even more. The Braves have not wavered on their position regarding Donaldson. They are going to wait to see what he does and hope he re-signs. But if he doesn’t, it could be a blessing in disguise, as a Kris Bryant trade may be the ideal scenario in the long run for Atlanta.