The Chicago Cubs certainly look a lot different now than they did at the start of the season.
Before the 2021 campaign began, they decided to give it one last shot with their aging core, even though the team was flawed.
For a while, they did well and were even in first place in the weak National League Central.
But the team’s performance understandably declined and they rightfully decided to tear it all up.
They are now a rebuilding team with a bad MLB roster, but with an improved farm, and that should help the franchise build a sustainable winner in a few years.
Because they are rebuilding, the odds of them bringing one of the stars they just traded are slim at best: it just wouldn’t make much sense.
However, we have seen enough free agent periods to know that some players’ markets often crash to the point that they don’t generate much interest from organizations around the league.
Because of that, we can make this hypothetical exercise: Which of the Cubs’ former stars are more likely to return to the team this offseason?
Bryant And Kimbrel Are Probably Off The Table
At this point, it’s probably safe to say that Bryant probably won’t return to the Cubs.
If both sides couldn’t agree on an extension in all these years, instead focusing on fighting over a year of control, they won’t do it now that the team will enter a rebuild and the player, about to enter his 30s, will want to sign with a club with championship aspirations right away.
Bryant, who won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2015 and the MVP in 2016, is having a resurgent season, with a .272/.360/.504 line, 19 homers, and a .864 OPS.
He will probably seek a very large contract.
However, he left the door open to a possible return.
Kris Bryant, on openness to re-sign with Cubs, no matter what happens in next few days:
"I've had some of the best memories here and the best times of my life. So, it'd be really stupid of me not to say, hey, if they want me here, of course, I'm always going to listen."
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 28, 2021
Kimbrel is also having a historic season in relief, but the Cubs won’t make the same mistake they made in 2019, when they gave him more than $16 million per season.
Rizzo Wouldn’t Make Much Sense
Rizzo remains a talented hitter who also contributes on the field, with excellent defense.
He is about to turn 32, though, and while he won’t command the monster deal that Bryant is likely to get, signing him wouldn’t make too much sense at this point for the Cubs.
Since he plays in a corner infield position, Rizzo’s market could stall somewhat, but it’s not likely.
Some team will likely pay him.
The slugger has repeatedly stated his love for the Cubs, but at this point, understands their decision to move on.
Could Baez Be The Guy?
While unlikely, Baez seems to be the most likely star to re-sign with the Cubs.
Depending on his market, the Cubs could consider bringing him back, but it has to be a low AAV (average annual value) and not a lot of years for it to make some kind of sense.
He has power (24 homers so far this season) and speed (13 steals) with good defense at the middle infield positions.
He is also the youngest of the quartet, at 28 years old.
His .285 OBP, however, is problematic.
He says it sounds like a bad breakup but Baez and Bryant has come out and said that they would love to re-sign with the Cubs.
— James Jules (@JamesJules12) August 3, 2021
Again, bringing back Baez remains highly unlikely, but among the four traded stars, he would be the best bet to re-sign.