Padres: Kris Bryant should be the team’s top target next offseason

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The 2021 season hasn’t even started yet. We’re three weeks or so from Opening Day and yet here we are, talking about next offseason. That’s what happens when you have a free agent class that could be one of the best of all-time.

This past winter, AJ Preller and the San Diego Padres focused largely on the trade market to shore up a pitching staff that had plenty of questions. He brought in a former Cy Young winner in Blake Snell, a 2020 Cy Young runner-up in Yu Darvish and seasoned right-hander Joe Musgrove to round out the rotation.

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Then, he put the finishing touches on the offseason by bringing in Keone Kela and Mark Melancon to replace Trevor Rosenthal, who wound up signing with the Oakland Athletics late in the offseason. But next year, with the pitching staff locked and loaded, he might be better served adding an impact bat in the form of Chicago Cubs superstar Kris Bryant.

Bryant, a Las Vegas native, has accomplished just about everything possible during his time in the Windy City. He kicked off his career by winning the NL Rookie of the Year in 2015 and leading the Cubs to a postseason berth. Then, for good measure, he followed it up with an MVP and a World Series championship.

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From 2015 to 2019, he ranked as one of the best players in all of baseball. Capable of playing all over the diamond, including all three outfield spots, third base and first base, Bryant brings a ton of defensive versatility and he runs extraordinarily well for his size.

But if the only time you got to see Bryant play came last season, you probably have a very different image in your mind. The former first-rounder struggled through the worst season of his big league career, finishing with a 73 OPS+ in the pandemic-shortened campaign.

Up to that point, Bryant hit .284/.385/.516. At his best, he’s an MVP candidate. Even in the other years prior to 2020, he’s been an All-Star-caliber presence for Chicago. While he’s open to signing an extension with the Cubs, the two sides reportedly haven’t spoken this spring regarding any sort of new deal.

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If the Padres are looking for that missing piece at the trade deadline, Bryant might even be a fit then. Let him get a taste of what it’s like to play for the Friars, then look to lock him up this winter. Or, roll the dice come the offseason and look to bring the former University of San Diego standout home as the club embarks into its championship window.