Joe Maddon Surprised By Kris Bryant Trade Talk

The Cubs continue to canvass the trade market at the Winter Meetings.

Bruce Levine
December 09, 2019 - 11:03 pm
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SAN DIEGO (670 The Score) -- In the wake of trade rumors swirling and Cubs brass not denying that they could deal a player from their core, former Chicago manager Joe Maddon was a bit taken aback by hearing that star third baseman Kris Bryant in particular could be available.

Maddon is the new Angels manager after leading the Cubs for the last five years and was perplexed by the idea that Chicago could deal Bryant, a three-time All-Star and the 2016 National League MVP who turns 28 in January.

"That I guess is the landscape of the game today," Maddon replied when asked about Bryant's perceived availability. "There was a time when it was important to begin and end your career with the same team. You look at Billy Williams and Ernie Banks, Ron Santo spending all or most of their careers in Chicago. It is part of the structure of the game from the top down. In the past, you never heard about the windows of opportunity for winning."

The Cubs and Phillies have had discussions centered on Bryant, according to sources. The Winter Meetings provide the setting for the teams to work on matching up the return that the Cubs would be seeking.

While Bryant rumors float, catcher Willson Contreras also finds his name in trade speculation. Given his much lower cost than Bryant -- Contreras is projected to make $4.5 million in arbitration for the 2020 season as opposed to Bryant's $18.5 million -- and his three years of club control left, Contreras might be easier to trade.

"When you talk about my guys from the Cubs, you are talking about some really good players," Maddon said. "It is kind of strange that you would hear about them being dealt at such an early point of their development. They are not done improving. They are all going to get better. My job was to make them better on the field and win games. These guys that you're talking about are really good players. So it is kind of weird to see these easily come and go now."

Asked if he wants Bryant or Contreras for his Angels, Maddon gave a no-comment with a laugh.

"I love both of them," he added.

Nationals manager Davey Martinez, who was the Cubs' bench coach from 2015-'17, also expressed surprise.

"You are talking first about a tremendous player," Martinez said of Bryant. "Anybody including the Cubs will benefit from having Kris Bryant on their team. We are in a new era of change in this game. The one thing still is true that the players just want to play. I still believe he is going to be a Chicago Cub. I believe he will continue to do well."

Complicating matters for the Cubs in potential Bryant trade talks is that his service time grievance is still pending. The MLB Players' Association filed the grievance on behalf of Bryant, contending that the Cubs manipulated his service time back in 2015 by promoting him from Triple-A Iowa one day after he'd have accrued a full season of MLB service. The case has been heard by an arbitrator. Bryant is currently set to become a free agent after 2021. If the ruling were to go in his favor, he'd be granted free agency after 2020.

The expectation is Bryant won't win his case, which president of baseball operations Theo Epstein hinted at in explaining that the Cubs were "fairly confident" in what the outcome will be. Still, Epstein characterized it as "frustrating" to not have a ruling yet while the team looks to conduct its offseason business.

"We don't expect it will be more than a couple weeks, and we are operating with (what) the likely outcome will be and moving forward with that," Epstein said.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.