The Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone, we ate too much, the days are getting shorter, and our mood is generally trending downward. The fact that the MLB offseason isn’t really close to getting going doesn’t help things. I know Charlie Morton just signed a deal with the Atlanta Braves, but by and large, activity has been at a standstill.
All of that could begin to change by Wednesday as the non-tender deadline will come and go. Due to the economic “hardships” faced by ownership groups across the sport this year, there appears to be a deluge of talent entering the marketplace.
One such talent that appears to be available is Kris Bryant. This has been a lightning rod issue on social media platforms in recent days. Various Cubs outlets have discussed the possibility of the team non-tendering the former MVP, an idea that on its face is quite laughable. The idea was expanded upon by Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic:
Ultimately, we will know by Wednesday whether Bryant is cut loose from the team up north or if he simply will become some other team’s arbitration conundrum. Following the recent quotes from new President of Baseball Operations, Jed Hoyer, the idea of the White Sox becoming a trade partner for their crosstown neighbors spread like wildfire. Even the Sox corporate podcast dedicated an entire episode to the concept. The reaction within the Sox fan base to this has been, well, interesting if not unsurprising.
Many sane members of the fan base would view acquiring Bryant for pennies on the dollar while paying a higher arbitration figure appealing in an effort to patch the Dan Ryan-sized hole in right field. However, a very loud segment of the fan base has decided to go full-on meatball. I’m not going to dignify any of these comments here with exposure, but simply search “Kris Bryant White Sox” on Twitter and you will see a slew of people that have a thought process one can only describe as “special” to say the least.
Why It Makes Sense
Kris Bryant is really good at baseball despite what his 2020 stat line suggests. I could stop this segment of the column and move on, but I’ll indulge you with a little more context. For his career, Kris Bryant owns a .280/.380/.508 slash line, good for a 136 wRC+. That includes his injury-plagued and disastrous 2020 season.
Bryant brings an ability to field multiple positions across the diamond, having spent time at 3B (mostly), 1B, and both corner outfield spots. As I’ve written previously, this is the type of positional versatility the White Sox could desperately use on their roster. Having a player such as Bryant would allow the team to utilize him in multiple roles and give players like Jose Abreu an occasional breather at 1B, limiting Eloy Jimenez’s defensive exposure, and spelling Yoan Moncada when his hammy comes up a little tender after rounding third base. If the team were to acquire the soon-to-be 29-year-old, he would likely play right field on an everyday basis, but his versatility should not be overlooked.
Even taking into account his poor showing in the shortened 2020 season, Bryant still owns a career 130 wRC+ against RHP, a figure that eclipses the output from free-agent options George Springer and Michael Brantley. There has obviously been a lot of words written about the Sox need to add left-handed balance to the lineup (by yours truly included), however, Bryant’s output against righties would help this lineup tremendously, regardless of handedness.
Cause For Concern?
As previously alluded to, Bryant had an abysmal 2020 season in which he posted a slash line of .206/.293/.351, good for a 76 wRC+, while playing in only 34 games. A wrist issue cost him 26 games of a shortened season and could’ve been a major factor in his limited offensive output. Bryant also missed 60 games during the 2018 season due to a shoulder injury that was largely responsible for the lowest power output of his young career to that point.
So yes, this is a guy that has had a couple of injury-plagued seasons in recent memory that limited his time on the field and limited his performance when on it. However, he bounced back nicely in 2019 by putting up typical Kris Bryant numbers while fully healthy, and I would expect much of the same in 2021.
Another concerning issue for fans is the fact that Bryant is entering his final season of arbitration eligibility where he is scheduled to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $18-$20 million. Knowing that Bryant is represented by White Sox nemesis, Scott Boras, the likelihood of a long-term pact seems unlikely despite the team bringing in fellow Boras client, “Diamond” Dallas Keuchel last winter. So there is some trepidation about using trade assets, even marginal ones, to acquire the former MVP knowing that it would likely be for only one season at a high salary.
What’s All The Fuss About?
Personally, I don’t think anyone should worry about the financial or prospect capital part of this equation. Bryant’s value is at a low point for a former MVP due to the injury and performance issues that plagued him last season. Additionally, the lack of contractual control minimizes a potential return the Cubs should expect for the former franchise cornerstone.
From a fan base perspective, I really believe the loud segment that doesn’t want Bryant simply doesn’t want him because of the uniform he has worn to this point in his career. This is a thought process that needs to be removed permanently.
We as a fan base have largely embraced two guys that played for our team’s two biggest division rivals, and we place these two on a pedestal. Of course, I’m speaking of A.J. Pierzynski and Jim Thome, who made a habit of actually costing the White Sox games before they arrived at 35th/Shields.
The fan base can embrace these two, yet they can’t come to grips with the idea of the team acquiring Kris Bryant? Jim Thome spent years hitting walk-off homers for the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins against the Sox, and there are people that prop him up to be this franchise icon on par with or even surpassing the greatest player in the history of the franchise. It’s absolute lunacy, and it needs to stop.
There would still be significant hurdles to overcome for the White Sox to acquire Kris Bryant. Would the White Sox have to pay a “tax” to acquire him knowing that they acquired a franchise cornerstone from their crosstown neighbors a little over three years ago? In fact, trading away Eloy Jimenez was a move that new Cubs president, Jed Hoyer, argued against to no avail. So will he have an appetite to deal a former MVP and franchise cornerstone to the South Side? I think he would for the right deal, but would the acquisition cost be a little higher for the White Sox than others? Only time will tell on that front.
All things considered, my preference would be for the White Sox to simply take money from the Reinsdorf Family Trust and give it to George Springer to address the right field hole. In a perfect world, I’m always taking money that would be buried with Jerry Reinsdorf and giving it to players on the open market instead of giving up, again, even marginal prospect capital. However, if this team is unable to win a bidding war for Springer (and there’s little evidence to suggest they can/will), I believe Bryant should be Plan B.
Getting a former MVP on the last year of his deal could be the edge that the player and team need to have a successful 2021 campaign. Bringing in a mercenary like Bryant, who will be playing for big dollars next winter, could light the fire under him to bring out that MVP talent we have seen for several years.
So stop saying you don’t want him because you have a friend with his jersey that gives you a hard time about being a Sox fan. If fully healthy, adding an MVP-caliber player would make this team better. In the end, that’s all that matters. After all, wouldn’t having Bryant on the team that gives the Sox more World Series championships be the ultimate bragging rights if you’re into that sort of thing?