Gregory Bull/Associated Press
Talk about the Cubs possibly blowing it up and trading the likes of Kris Bryant or Willson Contreras is sure to permeate MLB circles this offseason. After Chicago flamed out in the playoffs, team president Theo Epstein said lackluster offensive performances in recent years could merit "significant change," per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.
Does this mean Chicago will attempt to deal Bryant, Contreras or any of their other core pieces? Not necessarily.
Moving Bryant is complicated. He is coming off the worst offensive season of his career (.644 OPS) and shows limited upside as a defensive first baseman. Plus, Bryant will be a free agent after next season and could earn north of $20 million in his final year of arbitration, which might hamper his trade value.
Contreras should have more value. The 28-year-old was slightly less productive at the plate this year, but he still had a .763 OPS and finished second in fWAR among qualified catchers. Moreover, Contreras has thrown out 32 percent of would-be base-stealers in his career, improved his pitch framing, and will not be a free agent until 2023.
Backup catcher Victor Caratini experienced regression after a promising 2019, and top catching prospect Miguel Amaya might not be ready for at least another year or two. Contreras has too much value to the current club, especially if the Cubs still hope to win in 2021.
Anthony Rizzo is not going anywhere. The same can probably be said for Javier Baez, even though he ranked last in OBP (.238) among qualified hitters. Kyle Schwarber had a .701 OPS and is a poor defender, and Chicago is unlikely to trade Ian Happ given its shortage of quality outfielders.
This is all to say: Chicago's core is likely to stay put. Things could change at next year's trade deadline, but Epstein shouldn't move off the team's top stars just for the sake of change, especially since he is also in a contract year.