2021 Dodgers Trade Deadline Targets: 1B/3B/OF Kris Bryant, Cubs

Kris Bryant (via)

We’ve primarily, only actually, covered pitchers in this series of potential trade deadline targets. Having seen a few things that have happened over the past few weeks, and the players that have occupied the last spot(s) on the bench for some time now, it is probably necessary to take a look at one of the top targets in the field/at the plate.

The group of Sheldon Neuse (63 PAs), Luke Raley (59 PAs), DJ Peters (34 PAs), Yoshi Tsutsugo (31 PAs), Steven Souza Jr. (28 PAs), Andy Burns (15 PAs) and now Billy McKinney isn’t the ideal way to spend a roster spot as the NL West race is now poised to go down to the wire.

While Corey Seager and Gavin Lux should return and bump two of those listed above off the 26-man roster, Mookie Betts‘ run of injuries and whatever else could happen ahead of October makes Kris Bryant worth exploring.

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Previous entries

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After slashing .206/.293/.351/.644 in 147 PAs during the shortened 2020 season, Bryant has bounced back to a much more respectable 264/.348/.489/.836 in his 348 PAs for the Cubs this season. That’s a pretty similar line to his 2018 season while he also brought his K% back down to 23.9% which is just about in line with his career total.

Bryant’s BABIP, which dropped down to a career-worst .264 and ranked 168th among batters with at least 140 PAs, is back to .311 this year after sitting around .330 to .340 from 2016 to 2019.

This season’s BABIP includes a horrendous .120 throughout June, with a slash line of .114/.205/.241/.445 that obviously put a huge dip to his season numbers. While they didn’t rise back to the level of April and May of this season, Bryant’s July numbers have been much better. And taking a closer look at Bryant’s splits, the .333/.415/.694/1.109 against left-handed pitchers this season seems like it would be a boost to a team that sits at .233/.316/.418/.734 this season.

And rather than type it all out, here’s a look at how Bryant has fared against each pitch type this season.

Kris Bryant vs. Pitches

His struggles against curves stands out and is one of the things that carried over from 2020 after he held a .250 BA/.442 SLG/.318 wOBA in 2019. While his run value against curves is unfortunately similar to Betts, Bryant also carries a Whiff% among the top 10 in the league with at least 25 PAs. Of course, that isn’t a disaster as Fernando Tatis Jr. leads with a 56.4 Whiff%.

On the plus side, Bryant ranks 24th in wOBA against fastballs and 31st in wOBA against sliders, ahead Justin Turner, Chris Taylor and Betts.

Honestly, I think we could list plenty of stats explaining why Bryant would be a good acquisition. He was an All-Star this season and is one of the best bats available as the 48-51 Cubs are 10 games out of first in the NL Central and 9 behind the second Wild Card spot.

Down to a 1.9% chance of making the playoff according to FanGraphs, the Cubs should be selling at the deadline and Bryant has been involved in plenty of trade rumors for awhile now. Now 29 years old, Bryant will finally be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year after settling for $19.5 million in his last year of arbitration.

With 25 starts at 3B, 22 in RF, 18 in LF, 10 in CF and 10 at 1B, Bryant protects the Dodgers in a variety of ways depending on the health of Betts and the struggles of Cody Bellinger. Third is still his clearly best position and he’s a better defender there than the Dodgers current options, but Turner is obviously locked into the spot for the most part.

Even if he’s below average in the outfield, he should be able to play it better than Matt Beaty and appears to hold at least some similar numbers to Chris Taylor overall.

Cost

As I mentioned, Bryant is an impending free agent and ESPN’s Jeff Passan has said he is as good as gone and likely certain to be dealt at the deadline. Given the competition you would expect for him, he won’t exactly be cheap even if it is a 2+ month rental.

Proposal

To CHC: Kody Hoese, Jacob Amaya, Andre Jackson
To LA: Bryant

I’ll preface this by saying I checked with Dustin on what he thought I should put here as I am not the most confident or comfortable estimating the cost of things like this. Hoese, slashing just .182/.241/.220/.461 between Double-A and the Arizona Complex League this season, has missed about a month in Tulsa before heading to Glendale for a rehab assignment. While he ranked higher on MLB Pipeline (4th) than Dustin’s Top 50 (8th), Hoese seems to have fallen behind Miguel Vargas who moved into the Tulsa lineup at 3B while Hoese has been out.

Amaya (10th on MLB Pipeline, 15th by Dustin) and Jackson (26th on MLB Pipeline, 11th by Dustin) at least looks somewhat similar to potential offers for other teams by places that are a bit more knowledge than me. Amaya is also at Tulsa this season, slashing .207/.289/.347/.635 in his first time at the level and continuing to show a bit of the concerns with his power while also seeing his K% rise to the highest of his minor-league career. Meanwhile, Jackson has really brought his BB% down in Tulsa, from 12.9% in 2019 to 7.7% this season. Keeping his K% up at 29.9%, Jackson holds a 3.36 ERA and a 4.82 FIP as he has struggled a bit with homers this season as his GB% dipped from around 46% each season to 32.4% in 2021.

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There’s really not much more to cover here. Bryant is a luxury compared to some of the pitching needs the Dodgers have, but there are some slight concerns in the field and at the plate that he could solve. I know the temptation would (should?) be to count on Seager’s return to help sort out the offense, especially with Albert Pujols proving to be a useful option against lefties. Should all the injuries sort themselves out, Bryant probably isn’t necessary. I just don’t know how much that can be counted on with everything we have seen this year.

About Cody Bashore

Cody Bashore is a lifelong Dodger fan originally from Carpinteria, California (about 80 miles north of Dodger Stadium along the coast). He left California to attend Northern Arizona University in 2011, and has lived in Arizona full-time since he graduated in 2014 with a journalism degree. He now works for the university’s athletics department after spending seven years with the local newspaper.