Hey Chicago Cubs, forget Carlos Correa and get Kris Bryant back

CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 02: Kris Bryant #17 of the Chicago Cubs at-bat during a game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 02, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - JULY 02: Kris Bryant #17 of the Chicago Cubs at-bat during a game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 02, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

If Chicago Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer goes after free agent shortstop Carlos Correa, he’ll be making a big mistake. What he should do instead is use part of the money Correa would cost to reunite the team with a former MVP while turning over the shortstop position to the young incumbent.

In short: Forget Carlos Correa, bring back Kris Bryant, and trust Nico Hoerner.

There are several reasons why this approach makes far more sense for the Cubs than pursuing Carlos Correa.

First and probably foremost, it’s cheaper. Once the lockout ends, Bryant will hardly be a bargain-basement pickup … but he has given no indication of asking the kind of 10-year, $350 million commitment Carlos Correa is asking. Since the bidding for Correa is guaranteed to be highly competitive, those numbers can’t be taken lightly.

To the extent numbers for Bryant have been floated in the media, they have landed in the area of six years and $160 million (per MLBTradeRumors.com). Given that Bryant is a Scott Boras client, that’s very likely low. But it’s probably still below the range of any potential Carlos Correa deal, and it’s something the Cubs can easily afford.

Second, Bryant provides versatility in a way that Correa never will. Correa has to date started 749 games, every one of them at shortstop. Bryant has made 678  appearances as a third baseman, 159 in left field, 109 in right field, 29 in center field, 32 at first base, and two at shortstop.

In an age where the abundance of relief pitching puts tremendous emphasis on multipositional players, that kind of versatility has value that cannot be expressed in dollars and sense.

Their offensive numbers are essentially tradeoffs, and to the extent they favor anybody it’s Bryant. Here’s a table of their career stats in five vital offensive measurements:

              Bryant   Correa

BA          .278        .277

OB          .376        .356

SA           .504        .481

OPS+      132         127

WAR        28.7        34.1

Correa has the better WAR, but Bryant holds an edge in the other four categories. Granted, Bryant is about 18 months older … but both are in their career primes.

Kris Bryant’s versatility, as opposed to the inflexibility of Carlos Correa, provides one additional benefit that may be unique to the Cubs. Hoyer’s present plan is to start Patrick Wisdom at third base, the outfield picture being in a state of flux. Bryant clarifies the outfield picture while simultaneously providing insurance at third in the event Wisdom, who had a good 2021, regresses to a one-year wonder.

Bringing Bryant back would also be a popular move with North Side fans, who have always seen the 2016 Most Valuable Player as a favorite son. In that vein, it’s worth keeping in mind that, while there was reported acrimony in the relationship between Bryant and the team’s front office, he’s always left the door open to a reunion.

Finally there’s the matter of Hoerner. Adding Correa unseats him as the regular shortstop, consigning Hoerner to the role of middle infield backup. The other option is to shift him to center field, where he would have to compete with another 2021 find, Rafael Ortega, for playing time.

But any of those options risks taking minimum advantage of Hoerner’s numerous developing strengths. This is, after all, a a 25-year-old who batted .302 (admittedly in an injury-limited 170 plate appearances) in 2021. Only one Cub with more than 100 plate appearances (Frank Schwindel, .342) did better.

Hoerner’s skills fill chronic Cubs needs. In 2021, he struck out in only 14 percent of his plate appearances. Bat-on-ball contact is a Grade A problem for the Cubs which, as a team, fanned better than 25 percent of the time last season.

Correa, for his career, has fanned in 20 percent of his plate appearances.

Hoerner also walked once every 10 trips to the plate in 2021, nicely above the team average of eight percent.

The signing of Correa would be a shimmering bauble for Hoyer and the Cubs. But it would not make nearly as much statistical sense as the successful pursuit of Bryant. That’s especially true since landing Bryant would cement the door open for Hoerner to blossom.

Next. Why Marcus Stroman is already a Cubs legend. dark

The best possible Cubs team in 2022 has both Bryant and Hoerner in the starting lineup and Correa playing for somebody else.