As is often the case with rumors, the rumblings of a potential 1-for-1 trade between the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs involving star third basemen Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant may very well be unfounded. But that warning aside, let’s take a moment to analyze the potential player swap.
The rumors started to heat up after it was reported that Bryant lost his grievance case against the Cubs, increasing the likelihood that he would be traded. Naturally, pundits look at two star third basemen frustrated with their respective front offices and imagine a simple player swap to resolve the issue. That’s what happened Wednesday when ESPN’s Jeff Passan first broke the news that the two clubs had discussed a trade. Not long after, ESPN’s Jesse Rogers threw gasoline on the fire with these comments:
"“This is something I heard very recently. That, yes, Arenado would love to play for the Cubs, I agree with Jeff [Passan] on that,” Rogers said. “I’ll go one step further. That they’ve even discussed a one-for-one deal, Kris Bryant for Nolan Arenado, where the Rockies pick up a good portion of Arenado’s salary over the length of the contract. I’m talking $7 or $8 million per year.“That’s how much they need to get rid of Arenado and he wants out.”"
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To start off, at this time I don’t think this trade is going to happen. Rockies GM Jeff Bridich is rumored to have a very high asking price for Arenado and while the team is bound to eat some of his salary in the event of a trade, I doubt the Rockies’ front office would agree to let Arenado go while covering $8 million a year of his salary without an additional player like a low-level prospect coming back with Bryant.
Arenado is not only the best player in franchise history but, when it’s all said and done, he has a chance to work himself into the discussion of the best third baseman to play the game. His glove is already there and if his offense stays this consistent, he will feature prominently in that discussion at the end of his career.
Colorado’s All-Star third baseman has led the National League in home runs in three of the last five seasons, twice leading in RBI as well. He has topped 40 home runs and 130 RBI three times and has not dipped below 37 home runs or 110 RBI in a full season. At times, he has also led the league in total bases (twice), games played, doubles, and sacrifice flies. Last season, despite his team’s struggles, Arenado hit a career-high .315.
In contrast, Bryant reached 100 RBI only once, tallying 102 in 2016 when he won MVP and somehow Arenado only came in fifth despite leading the league in home runs (41), RBI (133), and total bases (352). Bryant also strikes out a lot more than Arenado (145 to 93 in 2019).
Since Bryant came into the league in 2015, Arenado has 199 home runs to Bryant’s 138, driven in 621 RBI to Bryant’s 403, hit .300 with a .937 OPS to Bryant’s .284 and .901, and struck out 534 times compared to Bryant’s 733.
The only offensive measurement in which Bryant bests Arenado is in OPS+ where he has topped him in four of the past five years. However, after analyzing the rest of these two players’ numbers, this anomaly seems to lend more credence to the argument that park-adjusted stats overcorrect for Coors Field than it does to any argument that Bryant is anywhere near the offensive threat that Arenado is.
Factor in the massive defensive gap between the two third basemen and it becomes clear that Arenado is a league above Bryant. A 1-for-1 trade featuring Arenado and Bryant would heavily favor the Cubs, especially with Colorado paying $8 million of Arenado’s salary. Unless something else is thrown in to entice the Rockies in addition to Bryant, this trade proposal is bad enough even Bridich won’t bite.