Let’s imagine a scenario together.
It’s mid-January. You’ve forgotten what warmth feels like. The Winter Meetings have come and gone and the Cubs were quiet. Too quiet.
Then, like a flurry of lake effect snow, the Tweets arrive. Bryce Harper and the Cubs are nearing an 8-year deal! It’s worth $330 million but backloaded with player options! Kris Bryant posts a picture of them from their Vegas Youth Baseball days on Instagram. It’s all happening.
So what next? What would ripple effects of a Harper signing look like?
The Cubs trade Kyle Schwarber. It’s a bit odd seeing Schwarber’s value being what it is considering he’s coming off his most valuable (3.2 WAR) year as a player. Even if he is better suited as a DH, he flashed moments of improvement in the field and still has value as a two-way player. He’s also in his first year of arbitration, so he’s probably the best (realistic) trade piece the Cubs have at their disposal. The Cubs need pitching — would Cleveland, who for whatever reason has decided to blow it up, send, say, Trevor Bauer to the Cubs in for Schwarber and a prospect or two? Not only is Bauer good, (2.44 FIP, 22.9 K-BB% in 2018) but he’s also cheap — in year 3 of arbitration — and known to prefer one-year deals.
The Cubs ride with a wild Harper-Schwarber-Heyward outfield that’s equal parts fun and maddening. Hard-hit balls down either lines would be an adventure, but maybe Heyward’s defense in center mitigates that enough for the Cubs to give it a whirl? Even Heyward’s defensive numbers are going in the wrong direction, but again, maybe the idea of Harper and Schwarber’s bats together is intriguing enough for the Cubs see past it. Keep Albert Almora Jr. as a 4th outfielder who basically plays the 7th inning on, move Ian Happ for a backend starter or high-ceiling bullpen guy and you’re in bussiness.
This one is very 2012 Offseason-esque and is not all that realistic, but what if the Cubs were hellbent on getting out from under Heyward’s contract now that they’re giving Harper all of the money? The Phillies have already openly admitted they’re ready to “be stupid” with all the money they have to spend this winter. Maybe the Cubs float top prospect Miguel Amaya in an effort to goad Philly into paying for Heyward’s fresh-start narrative? They’d have to retain some salary, but the Phillies have some high-AAV contracts that still end before Heyward’s, like *looks at notes* Jake Arrieta’s. It’d be wild, but not unprecedented.