Trade Reaction: The Reckoning of 2021
At the trade deadline, Jed Hoyer shipped out a lot of quality talent who had been with the Cubs for a long time.
Unable to get extensions done with the team's biggest stars, it was time to get something instead of nothing of value once the season ended. Despite a very hot may and a first place team, the Cubs had struggled off and on and seemed to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in. So Hoyer blew it all up.
Unfortunately, I saw this deadline coming. It began with Darvish being traded, continued when Rizzo turned down an extension offer right before opening day, became clear when the Cubs struggled to play in April, was paused while being hot in May. but was then was set in motion by the 11 game losing streak of a month ago.
For Rizzo specifically, it didn't come as a surprise to me. He's had some great seasons in his time here, but has slowed up some the last two years. We've seen his bat speed drop. We've seen his back act up more often. We've seen him get picked off twice in one game. We've seen him make unfocused errors on the field. Maybe it's age, or maybe it was the distraction that he knew the end was coming. Something was different about Rizzo of the last two years.
Perhaps New York revitalizes him, and he bounces back. Perhaps this is another step towards the end of a great MLB career. Only time will tell.
When it comes to his impending free agency, I'm not sure he gets the big deal he wanted. I think the Cubs 5/$70 million deal was fair. He outplayed his original contract, but I don't think teams should pay players for old time's sake. With this trade, he won't have a qualifying offer attached to him, which should help his value. Someone will want him, but I doubt any team will want to commit to 5 years+.
Regarding Baez, good for him in landing in a much bigger market than Chicago. The added attention is either going to play to his motivation, or causes deeper struggles when 8 million people see him flail at pitches in the dirt or make sloppy errors. I wish him the best, and I think it'll be a good thing for him, but it may backfire. When the Cubs offered him the $180m extension, he probably should have taken it, because I'm not sure if he gets that kind of offer again.
When he's on, he's a hall of fame level player, easily. But unfortunately, he's off more than he's on.
For Bryant, I'm not sure what to think. There's conflicting reports out there as to if the Cubs tried to extend him or not. Given the Cubs deeper extension talks with every other core player, I can't imagine that Bryant had no conversations about it. Maybe no formal offers, per say, but they had to at least talk about it. Unfortunately, Bryant's play in Chicago made him nearly un-extendable.
Bryant's first three years, he was a 6 WAR, 141 OPS+ player. He wont the MVP his second year in the league. At that pace, he was commanding a top 5 deal in all of baseball, somewhere north of 10 years and 300 million. Back in 2017, only one deal like that had been given out (Stanton in 2015). It's become more commonplace the last 2 years, with Trout, Betts, Lindor, Tatis, Machado and Harper each getting over $300m. In hindsight, that would have been a fair but groundbreaking extension to offer KB.
Unfortunately, Kris Bryant hasn't been the same player the last 4 years. He's struggled with nagging injuries, His WAR fell to 3 per year and OPS+ fell to 124+. he was no longer annual MVP candidate, but still good. What kind of deal could the Cubs have offered him then? Would he still be worth the 10 year/$300+ deal? We'll see exactly what kind of offer he gets this winter, but I doubt it's a top 10 deal off all time (north of 8/$260 that Arenado got in 2019). I love Bryant, but when he gets dinged up, his performance takes a hit. And as he gets into his 30s, he's going to be getting dinged up quite a bit. Teams will notice that.
Regarding Kimbrel, I'm glad he bounced back this year. I had a lot of questions about him, and good for him for outperforming my wildest expectations. He could easily come back to earth at some point, and if the Cubs aren't competitive, I'm glad it's something another team gets to worry about.
When it came to Pederson, Williams, Tepera, Chafin, and Marisnick, Jed seemed to get good value for those rentals. He's rebuilt the system into being a top 10 farm, a drastic improvement from their recent rankings in the mid 20s.
Honestly, I'm glad the Cubs unloaded. A lot of these guys were going to walk and get overpaid elsewhere most likely. Given the questions around their performance, I'm not sure they'd be valuable contributors to the next time the Cubs were ready to fully compete anyways. All these former-core players now become rentals for other teams, and the majority of them should get into the postseason. One of these former Cubs should get a ring this year, and I'll be happy for them. Additionally, they won't be able to have a qualifying offer draft pick attached to them, which will drastically increase marketability. In a way, Jed did all of them a favor.
If Javy Baez strings together 2 months of his 2018 prime and the Mets go deep into the playoffs, maybe some team gets stupid desperate and throws him $200m. The same concept applies to all the other guys. They have a chance to put their subpar Cubs season behind them, do some winning and cash in. I hope they do.
It's a sad ending to the world series championship core, yes. But this Cubs core has underperformed the last four years in a row. Whether the players got complacent, got distracted, weren't supported, whatever. At the end of the day, this wasn't the same team that went to the NLCS 3 years in a row. Take note from Jake Arrieta, keeping all these guys around for old times sake wasn't going to make the team a winner.
As I learned from Sammy Sosa, sometimes your favorite player does move on. Nobody and nothing lasts forever. As much as I loved watching his homers, I enjoyed competitive Cubs teams more. If I had to choose between watching my favorite player play on a losing team or a competitive winner without him, I'd go with the latter. We were fortunate to see a very competitive team for 6 years in a row. Those are memories that no trade will ever take away. Now that the Cubs have a top 10 farm system, competitive days for the Club will be where soon enough.