Which MLB Team Will Benefit Most From the Cubs’ Trade-Deadline Fire Sale?
The season is over for the Cubs, but not for 2016 World Series winners Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez
As members of the Cubs in 2016, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez helped Chicago capture the World Series, ending an MLB-record 108-year championship drought that was also the longest such occurrence in all four major North American sports.
Breakers of an MLB-record curse as Cubs, Bryant, Rizzo and Baez set another new record together when they were dealt as part of Chicago’s fire sale at the trade deadline, becoming the first trio of former teammates in the Modern Era to start the season on the same team and then homer in their respective debuts with a new team later that year.
“It was amazing,” Rizzo, now a Yankee, said. “Coming in, getting the first at-bat out of the way … and kind of getting those jitters out of the way. I was fortunate to wear the Cubs’ jersey. I put this [Yankees jersey on] … it felt really good.”
Baez, now a met, shared similar sentiments: “Really excited to see the fans cheer my name. That’s the biggest thing that motivated me out there, to play for the fans. It means so much for me, and it was really special. Before that, I was kind of nervous and just trying too much. I wasn’t being me at the moment, and it took a minute. I was just focused and happy I hit the homer.”
“The first homer’s weird,” added new San Francisco Giant Kris Bryant. “You don’t know what teams do when you come to celebrate in the dugout so I was kind of lost a little bit. I can’t say enough good things about this first day. I feel giddy. It felt like Christmas morning honestly.”
While it may feel like a holiday for Rizzo, Baez and Bryant, the rest of the season is shaping up to be a nightmare for the team they left behind in Chicago, as the Cubs now sit 51-56 in the NL Central, good enough for fourth place in the division.
A playoff team in four of the five seasons before this one, the Cubs, who were in contention prior to an 11-game losing streak and also dealt All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox before the trade deadline, will not be making the postseason in 2021 and are now in what appears to be a full-on rebuild as Rizzo, Baez and Bryant, all of whom will be free agents, look to help their new teams qualify for the playoffs.
“We could either hold these players for two months and have them compete for a fourth-place team or do everything we could do in our power to reset our farm system and reset our organization,” Chicago president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “We accelerated that over the last 10 days or so. Was it emotionally difficult? Yes. Do I think it was absolutely the right thing for the organization? I do.”
Right or wrong, Hoyer’s decision to deal Rizzo, Baez and Bryant for high-end prospects and sure-thing major leaguers officially closes the door on the organization’s championship window and means the core of Chicago’s ’16 championship team will now be helping other franchises compete for a World Series.
Of the three, Rizzo may have the best shot of a winning a title in 2021, even though the team he now plays for, the Yankees, currently resides in third place in the AL East at 56-48. A huge disappointment for much of the year, New York was the favorite to make it to the World Series entering the season and, unlike the Giants and Mets, the Yankees play in the seemingly wide-open American League. Winners of three in a row entering play on Monday, the Yankees also added slugger Joey Gallo at the deadline, and with Rizzo also in the lineup, now have a pair of powerful lefties who can take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field.
Sheerly by virtue of being in the National League, the first-place Giants (66-39) and first-place Mets (55-49) have a tougher path to make it to October, as the road to the World Series runs through Los Angeles and the defending champion Dodgers. Bringing Bryant into the fold will help San Fran in the NL West and acquiring Baez will boost New York in the NL East, but neither addition may be enough to help the Giants or Mets get past the Dodgers, who boosted their odds to repeat as MLB champs by trading with the Washington Nationals for 2021 All-Stars and past champions Max Scherzer and Trea Turner.
Regardless of what the rest of the season holds for Rizzo, Baez and Bryant, they’re currently all still united in their goal to win a World Series while the franchise they left behind is already looking ahead to next year, and in all reality multiple years after that, for a championship shot.
“Did we decide as a group to not have them the last two months here? We did,” Hoyer said. “But I love those guys and I hope people understand that. What we created was really special.”
Rizzo, Baez and Bryant now have a chance to do something special for someone else: win a World Series.
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