If Kris Bryant traded, who plays third base for Cubs?


by - Staff Writer -
Kris Bryant is an elite player in the majors (Quinn Harris - USA Today Sports)
Kris Bryant is an elite player in the majors (Quinn Harris - USA Today Sports)

It seems nearly set in stone that after Josh Donaldson decides where to spend the next chapter of his career, the Cubs will get aggressive in trying to trade Kris Bryant to a team with a fertile farm system that is also looking for an upgrade at third base.

Any team that trades for Bryant is trading for a perennial MVP candidate who is going to get on base at an elite clip, run the bases exceptionally well, stay out of the negative spotlight, hit mammoth home runs, play above-average defense at multiple positions and a guy who’s smile can win over an entire city.

It seems that the Braves, Nationals, Dodgers, and Rangers are the teams in the market for a third baseman — and Donaldson has received offers from the Braves, Nationals, and Twins. The Dodgers and Braves have the best farm systems for the Cubs to deal with.

But this isn’t an article putting together a package that anybody would deem fair to trade for Bryant. This is an article about what the Cubs should do about third base if KB leaves a gaping hole there.

I don’t think there is anybody that reasonably thinks the Cubs can improve on an 84 win season with the only change at the major league roster being David Bote starting at third base instead of three-time all-star Kris Bryant.

Bote presents a good off the bench option, who had a batting average near .260 with 11 home runs and 41 RBIs in an off the bench role in 2019. Bote is known to be a good defender but struggled with the glove last season. Bote committed 16 errors in the field last year, near the tops on the team, and he didn’t even play every day.

Bote presents a reliable option, but not the answer to replace KB.

The same can be said of Ian Happ, who is just a more versatile version of Bote, with more potential. Happ has pop from both sides of the plate and can play all seven positions on the field aside from pitcher and catcher.

In just 58 games, Happ equaled Bote’s home run total and drove in 30 runs after spending the first three-quarters of the season in triple-A Iowa, improving defensively and refining his approach at the plate.

Happ certainly has the potential to find the starting lineup, but he played better defense at second base and in the outfield than he does at third base. His versatility is more valuable to the Cubs than he could be as the everyday third baseman.

After looking in house, the next step is to scan what the Cubs could get in potential trades. In the partners we mentioned above, only the Braves could offer a potential plug into the 2019 lineup. That would be Austin Riley, who hit 18 homers and drove in 49 runs for the division-winning Atlanta Braves in 2019. If the Braves want/get Bryant, Riley does not serve much of a role for them — which would make him a logical piece in a trade with the Cubs.

The next place the Cubs may look is the free-agent market, which is a bit thin with Anthony Rendon, Mike Moustakas, Jose Peraza, and soon Josh Donaldson will be signed. The Cubs could choose to sign Asdrubal Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Pablo Sandoval, Sean Rodriguez, or various other third basemen, but there aren’t any that seem like fits with the Cubs or anybody that they could use as a plausible replacement for the generational talent Kris Bryant is.

My personal thought is don’t trade the guy, but if the Cubs do, they have their work cut out for them in terms of filling Kris Bryant’s shoes.

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