Chicago Cubs' prospect outfielder Alexander Canario looks excellent. He's on fire at Double-A Tennessee, slashing .314/.444/.706 (1.150 OPS) with five homers, a 19 percent walk rate, and an improved 17.5 percent strikeout rate in July. Although he struggled in his brief taste of the big leagues this year, I'm still very high on Caleb Kilian as well. Those were the two players the Cubs got in return for Kris Bryant ahead of last season's trade deadline. The return was good.
That said, Bryant was always the right player to extend. If we're talking about Juan Soto mega trades, not giving up prospects at all and extending KB for less money than Soto would cost to extend while signing more bats to supplement the rest of the lineup feels like the best option.
Patrick Wisdom is boom or bust weekly. Through 16 games played in July, he's hitting .167 with one home run, a 35.8 percent strikeout rate, and 79 wRC+. Imagine having the flexibility to shift KB between third base, first base, and outfield while gaining more financial freedom to fill in the lineup holes and quality free agent starting pitching.
Canario and Kilian could wind up being studs. I'd love that. If I had to guess, I think they will be above-average big leaguers. But look at the outfielder depth in the Cubs' farm system and what's already on the roster. Brennen Davis, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Kevin Alcantara, Yohendrick Pinango, Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki, Nelson Velazquez etc. If you're telling me the Cubs have one less arm (Kilian) and one less outfielder (Canario) for KB and more money to spend than if you were to trade for Juan Soto, it's an easy decision.
Some of this is hindsight. Crow-Armstrong is looking like he's panning out and progressing. His development was on display at this year's All-Star Futures Game. Happ is becoming what we thought he could be and made his first All-Star team. Suzuki signed in the offseason. You'd also rather get something for Bryant instead of letting him walk for nothing in free agency. Still, he fits on THIS team and the new direction the Cubs are heading so perfectly.
What I would give to be a fly on the wall when these decisions took place or what the conversations between the front office and KB were. What if the discussions were as simple as "we're trading Rizzo and Baez. Would you still be open to an extension?" and Bryant said no?
If those were the discussions and his response was no, would you want to offer an extension? I probably still would. Do your due diligence and all. However, that's a shot-in-the-dark type of move when decisions need to be made quickly. A last-ditch effort probably wouldn't keep KB around if he knew his friends and longtime teammates were on their way out the door.
What Really Happened Between The Cubs and Kris Bryant?
Reportedly, the Cubs offered Kris Bryant an extension before the 2017 season. Since then? That depends on who you ask. Bryant has repeatedly said he was never offered a contract extension. People in his camp have backed up that statement. Jed Hoyer claims to have offered Baez, Bryant, and Rizzo contracts that would hold up well historically. That's true in regards to Baez and Rizzo, but we actually don't know the figure he offered KB.
Not only that, but we aren't sure there was a direct offer to Bryant since 2017. Bryant's agent, Scott Boras, could've received a figure from the Cubs and never shared it with his client, hoping for more on the open market. That's what makes this whole thing a mystery. We might never know the full story.
It also could've created bad relationships between the players and the front office. It seems like out of all the players to go, Rizzo was the most upset, given his radio appearance shortly after the trade. He was also the first big name traded.
I'm coming up with a tinfoil hat theory here, but when you piss off the leader of your team and show a lack of loyalty to him, what would make KB feel secure moving forward? You'd think a big lump sum of money and a guaranteed contract would ease some tension. A no-trade clause might've done the trick. Nonetheless, that didn't happen, and I'm still sitting here wondering what this team would look like if it had.
The doubters and Bryant haters can continue to point out how he's missed 60 games this season due to injuries. Don't look now, but he's hitting .333 with a .979 OPS and four homers since returning to action on June 27.
Looking at the landscape of the Chicago Cubs' farm system, they don't have a near-ready top-of-the-line third base prospect. Wisdom feels like a better version of Mike Olt. He hits for a ton of power (17 HR) but leads the majors in strikeouts. Although he's on a cheap, controllable rookie contract, if he's a part of the future, the Cubs will need seven to eight consistent producers in their lineup to offset his streaky nature.
If Wisdom gets traded, maybe Jared Young will get an opportunity in the second half of the season. Young is getting more time at third base lately and is slashing .254/.323/.461 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs with the Iowa Cubs. Christopher Morel is another possibility at third base. However, most of the other options are a few years down the road.
KB hasn't played third or first base this season for the Colorado Rockies. It's not a matter of his ability to play the position, but more to get Ryan McMahon and C.J. Cron playing time daily.
To reiterate, the return the Cubs got for Kris Bryant was excellent. But if you were to give me the option of redoing that trade and taking KB's contract for seven years, $182 million ($26M AAV), or trading away high-end prospects for a more expensive Juan Soto and a less stacked farm system, I'll take the KB side all day. If only it were that simple.