While spring training might be right around the corner, the buzz surrounding potential blockbuster trades around Major League Baseball hasn’t dissipated.
Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant lost his playing-time grievance last week, further fueling trade speculation that has steadily leaked throughout the offseason.
With Bryant officially under team control through the 2021 season rather than becoming a free agent next winter, his potential trade value has taken a sizable upturn — meaning it will take more for a potential suitor to acquire him.
The 28-year-old is one of the top third basemen in the game, coming off a 2019 season in which he slashed .282/.382/.521 with 31 home runs and 77 RBI in 147 games.
Even one season of control would have yielded a high return for the Cubs. Now with two years before he becomes a free agent, his market seems to be heating up even more.
It just so happens that the Mets’ division, the National League East, is short of marquee third basemen making four of its five teams a potential landing spot for Bryant. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden listed the Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, and Washington Nationals as teams that could potentially pull off a deal before the 2020 season starts.
The NL East is expected to be one of the most hotly-contested divisions in baseball this season with the Mets, Phillies, Braves, and Nationals projected to win over 84 games.
The defending division champions, the Braves, saw their resurgent third baseman, Josh Donaldson, sign with the Minnesota Twins this offseason.
It’s forced them to pencil in Johan Camargo and Austin Riley as a platooning, underwhelming replacement.
The defending World Series champions, the Nationals, also lost their cornerstone at the hot corner when Anthony Rendon went west to join the Los Angeles Angels.
An unimpressive 11-game MLB debut in 2019 isn’t stopping the Nationals from possibly turning to former top prospect Carter Kieboom to be the answer at third. In 109 triple-A games last year, the 22-year-old slashed .303/.409/.493 with 16 home runs and 79 RBI.
However, it could be a risky move to rely on an unproven rookie full-time for a team trying to repeat as champions.
The Phillies failed to find that bona fide starting third baseman this offseason as GM Matt Klentak went silent after the early signings of Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius.
Scott Kingery is the expected Opening Day third baseman and could hold the spot until top prospect Alec Bohm is ready to make the jump to the majors.
Not only could the Phillies get that unquestionable star third baseman in Bryant, but they would bring in one of Bryce Harper’s closest friends as the two grew up together in Las Vegas.
The Mets actually have the best current situation at third base amongst the NL East’s contenders.
JD Davis and Jeff McNeil could see time at third as they are slated to continue their positional merry-go-round in 2020. A healthy Jed Lowrie will also be thrown in the mix as he’ll be keen on proving his worth after his first season in Queens was lost due to injuries.
Bowden noted that the Mets would have to give up two of their top-five prospects in pitcher Matthew Allan, shortstop Andres Gimenez and more. If the Mets parted ways with a player like Davis, too, that could do the trick.
Suddenly, the middle of the Mets’ lineup at some point during the 2020 season would boast Bryant, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, and possibly, a healthy Yoenis Cespedes:
Potential Optimal Mets 2020 lineup with Kris Bryant
- Brandon Nimmo- CF
- Jeff McNeil- 2B
- Pete Alonso- 1B
- Yoenis Cespedes- LF
- Michael Conforto- RF
- Kris Bryant- 3B
- Wilson Ramos- C
- Amed Rosario- SS
That would surely catapult their chances to win the East in 2020.