The past few days have provided a snapshot of why this current offseason could prove to be one of the most memorable in history.
On Monday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred imposed sanctions against the Houston Astros as regards the investigation into the theft of signs from the 2017 season, a move that ultimately resulted in the layoffs of manager Astros A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow.
Tuesday brought more drama. Within minutes, the Boston Red Sox separated from manager Alex Cora and the third base of the free agent Josh Donaldson signed with the Minnesota Twins.
The first two events will certainly have long-standing ramifications for the sport as the Commissioner’s Office continues to confront the gray area which is the sign theft epidemic.
Meanwhile, Donaldson’s decision to sign with the twins was the best scenario for the Chicago puppies who faced unprecedented downtime this winter.
The 34-year-old had a thriving market this winter, but it looked like he was losing suitors. The twins were also thought to be out on Donaldson just over a week ago, with Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals apparently the last teams standing.
The position of the puppies has just gotten stronger
But Donaldson’s decision to head to the Twin Cities is probably music for Theo Epstein’s ears. Why, could you ask? The commercial value of Kris Bryant has just increased considerably.
The Braves can cry for Bryant’s defense anything they want, but it is foolish to suggest that it would not be a sizable upgrade over their current third base options.
Oh, do you feel comfortable with Johan Camargo and his .279 OBP? Or Austin Riley and his strike rate of 36.4 percent? Please. The Braves need an impact club and Bryant could provide legitimate protection to Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman.
Washington faces a similar problem. The reigning champions made a series of depth moves – re-signing Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera, also adding Starlin Castro and Eric Thames – but they also need a legitimate producer to replace Anthony Rendon in the formation.
The Cubs had previously hired both teams over Bryant earlier this winter, and with Donaldson out of business, they officially had options.
Epstein and Hoyer should not move on Bryant’s commercial value. It cannot be ignored that he was the third most valuable player in baseball since 2015, and he is one of the best players in the game when he is healthy.
The Chicago front office may face off against the two enemies of the National League East in trade talks. What about a package focused on Drew Waters and Max Fried (at least)? Or maybe Nats feel it is time to reevaluate their desire to keep Victor Robles?
Maybe neither of them bites the team. In that case, the Cubs simply keep Bryant and hope that the changes inside the technical staff are enough to add some more wins in 2020.
Regardless, Donaldson’s decision offers puppies a clearer market. The Braves have the best potential capital and the Nationals have probably the most attractive trading chip. Now both teams are likely to be in play.