Cubs may trade Kris Bryant to gain some payroll flexibility

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Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reports that the Cubs have discussed a Kris Bryant trade with the Phillies. Nothing is close yet, and Levine notes that Bryant’s ongoing service time grievance is still an issue.

Including projected salaries from pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players, the Cubs’ 2020 payroll as it pertains to the competitive balance tax is nearly $210 million, according to Cot’s Contracts. The CBT threshold for 2020 is $208 million, meaning the Cubs would pay a penalty on the overage. Bryant, who is either entering his second-to-last or final year of arbitration eligibility (depending on the outcome of his grievance) is projected to earn around $19 million in 2020. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal suggests that trading Bryant would be one way the Cubs would be able to clear payroll space so as not to exceed the CBT threshold.

Bryant turns 28 next month. He is coming off of another productive season in which he hit .282/.382/.521 with 31 home runs and 77 RBI across 634 plate appearances. He’s a three-time All-Star who won the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Award and the 2016 NL MVP Award.

The Cubs last season finished 84-78, fading in September and ultimately settling for third place in the NL Central. Trading Bryant to facilitate signing free agents to cover other positions may not even help the Cubs return to prominence in the division, but a haul of prospects may help set the Cubs up for the future if they don’t see themselves signing Bryant to a contract extension.