Examining the best potential fits for Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant had a rough showing in 2020, with injuries limiting him to 34 games and batting line of .206/.293/.351 for a wRC+ of 75. However, that is the clear outlier on his resume, as his six other seasons have seen him put up a wRC+ of at least 123. Overall, in 884 games, his line is .278/.353/.481, 134 wRC+.

Bryant has been primarily a third baseman in his career, but he has diversified his defensive portfolio in recent seasons. In 2021, he still played 55 games at third, but also 48 games in left field, 39 in right, 19 in center, 12 at first base and one at shortstop. With that defensive versatility, it’s possible to fit him into just about any team’s lineup puzzle.

However, some teams won’t be serious contenders for Bryant’s services for financial reasons. MLBTR predicted Bryant to get a contract of $160M over six years. Some teams have never given a free agent a contract close to that in franchise history, such as the Athletics, Guardians, Pirates and Royals. The Rays made an exception for Wander Franco but don’t seem likely to give out another huge deal this year, even though they considered trading for him last year. The Orioles and Diamondbacks don’t seem likely to throw that kind of money around given the state of their current rosters. The Reds considered acquiring Bryant at last year’s deadline but now seem like they want to subtract payroll rather than adding. Let’s take a look at some of the other options.

Teams with known interest

  • Mariners — The Mariners tried to trade for Bryant last year and have been connected to him in free agency. With Kyle Seager reaching free agency and eventually retiring, they have a vacancy at third base for the first time in years. Abraham Toro would be the favorite for now, but he could also platoon at second with Adam Frazier or serve a utility role. They also have an uncertain outfield mix, with a great many talented youngsters on hand, but they all still come with varying degrees of uncertainty. After a 90-win season, they’ve been aggressive in trying to load up for 2022, adding Robbie Ray and Adam Frazier to the squad.
  • Rockies — The Rockies have been fairly quiet so far this offseason, letting Jon Gray go to the Rangers and seemingly content to let Trevor Story eventually depart as well. However, one move they’ve considered is a pursuit of Bryant. If they were to put Bryant at third, Ryan McMahon could theoretically slide to second base with Brendan Rodgers playing shortstop. If they want Bryant in the outfield, they have lots of room there, with none of Charlie Blackmon, Sam Hilliard, Connor Joe or Raimel Tapia being a real obstacle. The addition of the DH in the NL would make the fit even easier.
  • Mets — The Mets had discussions about acquiring Bryant at the deadline last year and have been connected to him in free agency. After spending big on Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar, it’s possible the Mets are done with throwing huge checks around. Although now that they’ve pushed their 2022 payroll up to $263M, it’s unclear if they have any limitations at all, meaning nothing can be ruled out completely.
  • Angels — The Angels were listed among Bryant’s suitors before the lockout. With Anthony Rendon penciled into third base, Bryant would likely need to play the outfield as long as Rendon is healthy and in the lineup. Mike Trout would take another outfield slot, with Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell and Justin Upton on hand as options as well. The Angels have serious questions about their middle infield, however, meaning they should have higher priorities than Bryant.
  • Padres — Similar to the Angels, the Padres were connected to Bryant before the lockout, despite having an incumbent third baseman in Manny Machado. He could certainly help in the outfield, however, as he’d be a clear upgrade to their current options of Trent Grisham, Wil Myers and Jurickson Profar. The question will be how much money they have to spend, as they ran a franchise record payroll of $174M in 2021 and are already set to start 2022 just under $200M.
  • Phillies — The Phillies were also rumored to be interested in Bryant before the lockout, which makes sense given their needs. The club has some big question marks in the outfield, outside of Bryce Harper. Bryant could also act as an insurance policy if third baseman Alec Bohm continues to struggle after a disappointing 2021 season.
  • Astros — The Astros reportedly checked in on Bryant before the deadline, but it’s a bit hard to see the fit on paper. Alex Bregman is slotted in at third, with the club having an outfield/DH rotation of Michael Brantley, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Jose Siri, Chas McCormick and Jake Myers. Shortstop is their most obvious area of need, making someone like Trevor Story a better theoretical fit.
  • Giants — Bryant would be a logical fit with the Giants, given that they traded for him in 2021. However, they are apparently unlikely to consider nine-figure contracts this offseason, which would seem to rule out a reunion.

Speculative fits

  • Blue Jays — The Blue Jays could certainly use an infield upgrade to make up for the loss of Marcus Semien. They reportedly made a run at Corey Seager before both he and Semien ended up with the Rangers. They apparently still have spending to do after the lockout, even after adding Kevin Gausman and Yimi Garcia. If Bryant were to take over at third base, Cavan Biggio could return to his natural position of second base, which Semien nudged him off. They’ve also been connected to Seiya Suzuki, suggesting they’re open to adding in the outfield as well.
  • Dodgers — The Dodgers re-signed Chris Taylor before the lockout to be their super-utility option and seemingly have bigger needs in the rotation. But given how much they love adding depth, they can’t be completely discounted. 2022 is also potentially the team’s final year with AJ Pollock and Justin Turner. (Pollock has a 2023 player option, while there is a club/vesting option for Turner.) Adding Bryant now would be a way for the Dodgers to prepare for the departure of either.
  • Rangers — The Rangers have already spent huge amounts of money to upgrade their infield, adding Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. With Josh Jung on the way to take over the third base, there’s little room for Bryant on the infield. However, the current outfield of Adolis Garcia, Kole Calhoun, Willie Calhoun and Nick Solak could certainly accommodate him. They’ve been connected to Seiya Suzuki recently, suggesting they are considering a significant outfield addition of some sort.
  • Red Sox — Boston subtracted a big right-handed bat when it traded Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers. Since then, the Red Sox have been connected to Seiya Suzuki, suggesting they’re looking to replace Renfroe’s bat through free agency. With Bryant in one outfield corner and Alex Verdugo in another, they could have Jarren Duran and Jackie Bradley Jr. competing for the center field job.
  • Yankees — The Yanks have been a sleeping giant so far in this offseason, seemingly pushing major moves until after they could get a look at the new CBA. DJ LeMahieu is the best fit for third base duties at the moment, but he could also defer to Bryant and move over to first base, especially if the club pulls the trigger on a Luke Voit trade. Like the Blue Jays and Red Sox, the Yankees were also connected to Seiya Suzuki, suggesting they could also find a way to work Bryant into the outfield mix, perhaps in combination with a Joey Gallo trade.

Long shots

  • Braves — The staring contest between Freddie Freeman and the Braves was not settled before the lockout. If they can’t work out a deal, Atlanta could always pivot to Bryant to try to make up for the outfield losing Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson. But with Freeman and Bryant likely looking at similar contracts, it seems much more likely they spend that money on the guy who’s been the face of the franchise and just helped them win the World Series.
  • Brewers — Luis Urias had a nice breakout season in 2021 and seems like the favorite for Milwaukee’s third base job, but he can also play second and shortstop, making him a good candidate for a super-utility role. If the NL adds the DH, it would be even easier for him and Bryant to share playing time. However, the Brewers are currently set to run a payroll of $121M this year, just shy of their franchise record, which was $123M in 2019. Adding the money it would take to sign Bryant doesn’t seem likely.
  • Cardinals — The Cards already have an excellent third baseman in Nolan Arenado as well as a solid outfield of Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson and Lars Nootbaar. After the lockout, they’re reportedly going to be focused on upgrading in the bullpen, but the addition of the DH to the NL could make them more interested in another bat.
  • Cubs — Bringing Bryant back to Wrigley would be a lot of fun, but that doesn’t seem likely. The club seems to be eschewing lengthy commitments for the short term. They did make the surprising add of Marcus Stroman, but his deal is only for a maximum of three years and could be even less if he opts out.
  • Marlins — The Marlins are looking for outfield help, but it’s hard to see them putting enough cash on the barrel for Bryant. The $53M guarantee given to Avisail Garcia was the largest of the Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter era. A few days later, they broke that record with Sandy Alcantara’s $56M extension. With Bryant likely to get more than both of those combined, it’s hard to see the Marlins winning the bidding.
  • Nationals — All signs points to the Nats taking a step back in 2022 and giving playing time to younger, cheaper players. After last year’s fire sale, they have lots of payroll space and could theoretically use it on a big signing like Bryant, but it seems like they’ll be holding their cash for at least a year.
  • Tigers — The Tigers have been aggressive so far but may have already made their big moves with Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez. Another huge contract would be a surprise, but a Bryant-Baez reunion would certainly be a fun one.
  • Twins — The Twins have to do something if they want to bounce back from a nightmare season and compete again in 2022. But they already have a strong lineup and have heavy lifting to do in the rotation.
  • White Sox — The White Sox have their biggest need at second base, making Bryant an imperfect fit. They also ran a franchise record payroll of $129M in 2021 and are currently slated to demolish that with a projected Opening Day payroll of $180M for 2022. Adding Bryant into the mix would be a surprise.

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