I’m gonna take a break from the Cubs offseason wishlist to address something I’ve seen far too much of the last week.
Every day I open Twitter or Facebook, which I recognize is the start of the problem right there but it’s pretty much unavoidable given what I do, and I see someone–and frequently people I know personally–say something like, “I’ve come to the conclusion/place/idea that I’m ok with the Cubs trading Kris Bryant if…”
What comes after the “if” doesn’t matter, because absolutely no one should ever be ok with the Cubs trading Kris Bryant. It should be the kind of thing that makes you consider trading in your fandom, although I guess if we’re all still here after the Addison Russell mishegas and Fredo Ricketts’s Trump fundraisers, we’re never going to go away. Which is exactly why they bought the team and exactly what they’re counting on, so I realize I’m pissing into the wind here. Save your breath.
Still, it’s the kind of thing that should have a fanbase in complete revolt. The fact that you have basically been conditioned to shut up and take it a symptom of what’s wrong with baseball right now, and really the country as a whole (but we’ll leave the latter out of it for this).
Here’s a list of players that would be an acceptable return for Bryant:
Christian Yelich (and that’s not a gimme)
Maybe Alex Bregman
We’ll throw Jacob deGrom on there to be nice. And that’s it. And none of those names are coming back for Bryant.
And yet there’s a growing faction of Cubs fans that are somehow convinced that trading Bryant is some version of four-dimensional chess that only Theo can see but they don’t want to admit they can’t see it because that would just mean they’re merely a peon. It’s not. It’s not even close. The idea of trading Bryant is merely an acceptance that the uber-wealthy Ricketts family don’t want to pay a player what he’s earned in two years’ time.
This isn’t about some “schism” between Bryant or Scott Boras and the Cubs. There’s no such thing. Pay him the most money, and he’ll be a Cub for life. This isn’t hard, and yet everyone wants to code this into some sort of larger puzzle. Again, it’s simple greed. The Ricketts want to keep more and more of your money and they certainly don’t want to have to give it to “labor.” They’re the stars after all, not Bryant and Rizzo and Baez. After all, they’re the only owners to bring a World Series to the Northside. And don’t you forget it.
The idea of some “grand plan” or “advanced thinking” is merely what they use to poison your water. If they can convince you that moving Bryant is actually the “smart” thing to do, because they’ll never be able to afford everyone, then you might not notice what an utter travesty this would be. This isn’t the NHL or the NFL where there’s a hard cap and you do get punished for producing a bevy of good players. You can pay whatever you want.
And if you somehow believe that the luxury tax would cost the Cubs or the Red Sox or Yankees or Dodgers living in the black, and you’d have to be the most gullible doofus on the planet to believe that or the Ricketts kids would have to be the stupidest people on the planet and the worst business people in history (and they might be!), remember the luxury tax is just another instrument of greed imposed by other owners who simply want money for free. It’s the Bob Nuttings and Derek Jeters and descendants of Bud Selig of the world not wanting to have to put a good product on the field consistently, which they easily could, to turn massive profits. It’s about bleeding their cities and fellow owners dry for money they’ll never have to earn. And yet all the owners go along with it because they’re raking in the cash too, and as long as it’s not going to the players, they’re just fine with that.
There is simply no way the Cubs can trade Kris Bryan and be better next year. And it should be about next year. You already went through the rebuild. And you go through those things to get a player like Kris Bryant, because they come around once a generation. You hoard those prospects in trades and spins at the international pool and make all those draft picks in the hopes you find a Kris Bryant. You don’t find one and then just decide to cash in and find another one. That’s not how this works.
The idea that the Cubs have to look forward to the future in any way is wool being pulled over your eyes to justify the Ricketts not having to spend to keep this team together. I’m sure if you got Theo in a private conversation at a bar and pumped him full of two or three beers he’d tell you he’d hand Bryant $37M a year tomorrow and wouldn’t look back. He’s not being allowed to. Because the Ricketts, one of the more born on third broods in the world, think they know better because they’re in the Lucky Sperm Club. Or they just want to keep more money for themselves.
They’re obviously not alone. The Red Sox, a team that has had their own channel for a long time now and one of the biggest brands in North American sports and the most expensive ticket in baseball, don’t want to pay Mookie Betts what he’s earned even more than Bryant. It’s not because they can’t, they’ve just decided they don’t want to., And they’ll tell you whenever they hire their new GM that he’ll lead the way in modern baseball thinking and trading Betts will be a part of that. That a team can run more efficiently than just ponying up $30M or more to players, who again, have more than earned it. They’ll tell you they need to get under the luxury tax threshold. They won’t tell you why, and no one will ask. Because the Red Sox and every team like them would absolutely turn a profit with a $300M payroll. They just don’t want to.
(I should admit that if the Red Sox payroll trimming allows the transfer budget for Liverpool to sign Kylian Mbappe next summer, then I’m all for it).
The Cubs are built to win now, and easily could win again in 2020 with as simple as one or two moves. And that’s with Kris Bryant, who is comfortably a top five player in baseball. If you somehow believe he’s perma-crocked at age 27, then again I can’t help you. Maybe hiring a new medical team that doesn’t send him out there every day with a knee that sounds like a Crunch bar would be a start to making all the non-believers see again.
As baseball is intertwined with America, this is just another symptom of the sickness. A group of barely qualified, probably barely literate rich kids tell you they can run a business more “efficiently,” which only means they can do it more cheaply and skimp on the actual workforce. That’s all trading Kris Bryant would be. And I don’t give a flying fuck what prospects he could bring back. We did that in 2011 and 2012 and 2013. That was then. I don’t care about 2022 or 2023 or 2024. The Cubs are here and now and anything they tell you about restocking the system or looking toward the future is utter horseshit. It’s a smokescreen. It’s meant to blind you to what’s really going on, which is unadulterated greed.
Imagine the Cubs trading Ryne Sandberg in 1986. If you’ve been around here a while, remember when the Hawks struggled in 2012 and some floated the idea of trading Patrick Kane for Ryan Goddamn Miller? Remember how we laughed everyone out of existence on that one? Two Cups, one Conn Smythe (undeserved, but still), one Hart Trophy later and looks even dumber now, doesn’t it (if we ignore all the off-ice being a monster stuff for a second)?
Trading Bryant would be no less galactically stupid or destructive.
Don’t fall for it. Don’t talk yourself into it. Don’t convince yourself you can see the logic. None of it is there. They’re only pretending it’s there so you won’t see what’s actually there. Don’t let them think you’re that stupid. That’s what they’re literally banking on.