The Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and it looked like they were starting a long run of playing in October annually. Fast forward six years and their core is gone. Kris Bryant was traded to the Giants for Caleb Kilian and Alexander Canario. Javier Baez was traded to the Mets along with Trevor Williams for Pete Crow-Armstrong. Finally, Anthony Rizzo was dealt to the Yankees for Kevin Alcantara and Alexander Vizcaino.
Going into the trade deadline, Cubs fans likely expected two of the three core players to be dealt. However, they weren’t expecting the entire house to be cleared out. Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez were such huge superstars in Chicago and the Cubs are in a big market, so it was assumed they’d be able to keep at least one guy.
Can they bring one of them back? Of course. Hope remains alive.
Rizzo was traded to the Yankees because New York wants to go for it in 2021. Unsurprisingly, Brian Cashman said so in his post-deadline press conference.
Anthony Rizzo is a free agent after 2021.
Brian Cashman: "We added Rizzo for this stretch drive. This is all about the 2021 effort. We haven't daydreamed into the future at all."
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) July 30, 2021
Regardless of if the Yankees win a ring or not, they still have Luke Voit on the roster with three more years of control. If Voit is healthy, he might be the cheaper option over Rizzo. Therefore, the Cubs could then snatch up Rizzo in free agency.
One could compare this scenario to the Yankees trading Aroldis Chapman in 2016. They likely had a handshake deal in place for Chapman to return. Then, however, he was traded because New York was out of the pennant race. Chicago isn’t making the postseason, so Jed Hoyer unsurprisingly traded him to get some additional value.
Rizzo said earlier this year he wants to be in Chicago. He means so much to the community, so he should be the Cubs’ highest priority to bring back among these three stars.
Baez wants to stay at shortstop unless he’s able to play with Francisco Lindor and the Mets long-term. With some impending free agents including Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Michael Conforto, New York might be more inclined to bring two of them back before extending back Baez, who isn’t consistent at the plate.
The Mets also have Robinson Cano under contract next season after his PED suspension. J.D. Davis doesn’t seem like he’s in New York’s long-term plans, so if they go get another third baseman and put Jeff McNeil back at second, Baez wouldn’t have a home.
If a scenario like this occurs, the Cubs could be one of Baez’s suitors. Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, and Marcus Semien are more consistent offensively, so they may garner more interest than Baez. That could be an advantage for Chicago in free agency.
Bryant is last in likelihood of coming back, partly because he’s a Scott Boras client. Boras clients have a history of holding out until they get the most money possible. The Cubs are in a rebuilding phase right now and aren’t going to back up the truck for someone who will command more money than Rizzo and Baez in the winter.
Bryant, who already declined Chicago’s $200 million-plus extension in 2018, was more likely to be traded over Baez and Rizzo, which indicates the Cubs have already made up their mind about his long-term future.
Follow Ben Fadden on Twitter @ben_fadden
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