Kris Bryant is finally an MLB free agent, one year later than he would have been if not for the Chicago Cubs’ service-time manipulation. All things considered, the All-Star slugger might be better off this offseason coming off an excellent 2021 season.
Thanks to the midseason trade to the San Francisco Giants, Bryant won’t see a smaller market. He couldn’t receive a qualifying offer, meaning any team that signs him won’t lose a draft pick for adding a star to their roster. It also helps the 29-year-old that he showed a unique all-around skill set this season.
Let’s examine a few ideal landing spots for Kris Bryant in free agency.
New York Mets sign Kris Bryant
The New York Mets tried to acquire Bryant in July, but their effort came up short. Fast forward to the winter and New York is already planning its pitch to Bryant and agent Scott Boras. New York made a big splash last offseason via trade, but it often came up short in free agency. Coming off a disappointing season, fans are expecting a lot more from this new regime.
- Kris Bryant stats: 25 home runs, 73 RBIs, .265/.353/.481, 124 OPS+, 3.6 fWAR
At the plate, Bryant had an interesting season. Across his first 50 games, he slashed .324/.406/.611 with a 166 wRC+, 12 home runs and 36 RBIs. In his next 43 games, before moving to San Francisco, Bryant posted a .191/.296/.362 slash line with an 80 wRC+, 15 RBIs and six home runs. He settled back down with the Giants, finishing with a .262/.344/.444 slash and 113 wRC+ in 51 games.
No one should expect the NL MVP version of Bryant to return and his recent years demonstrate that his 50-game sample to open the 2021 season was a fluke. But he still belongs in the middle of a batting order and his versatility would be welcomed by the Mets, especially if the universal designated hitter is approved.
Giants bring back All-Star slugger
Coming off a 107-win season no one saw coming, the Giants have plenty of holes to fill this winter. An even bigger void opened up following the Buster Posey retirement. But the future Hall of Famer walking away also opened up $20-plus million for San Francisco to spend and made the need for a big bat direr.
- Kris Bryant contract: Six years, $150 million
Bryant loved San Francisco upon his arrival and seemed to be a perfect fit in the clubhouse. While manager Gabe Kapler certainly enjoyed the production from Bryant’s bat, his versatility helped even more. The Giants played him at third base (21 games), left field (19 games), right field (11 games) and center field (five games) in just half the season.
With one of the best executives in baseball leading the way, San Francisco is poised to be a perennial contender and could challenge the Dodgers for years to come. Considering that would mean playoff matchups, Bryant’s postseason success with the Giants (1,147 OPS in NLDS) could come in handy.
Kris Bryant slides into Mariners lineup
Everyone knew a year ago that the Seattle Mariners had no plans to exercise their $20 million team option on Kyle Seager. While he meant so much to the franchise, age caught up to the 34-year-old third baseman and the franchise was ready to upgrade at the position. Now, there is an ideal replacement available in free agency.
Bryant, a West Coast native, could be a versatile piece in the Mariners’ lineup. But Seattle could also view keeping him at third base as the best thing for them. Julio Rodríguez, one of the top prospects in MLB, could debut in 2022 and slide into center field. In the corners, Seattle can deploy Jarred Kelenic and Kyle Lewis with Taylor Trammell serving as the fourth outfielder.
That allows Bryant to focus exclusively on playing third base and hitting. He (-6.3) finished behind Seager (4.9) in FanGraphs’ Defensive Rating last year, but there are reasons to believe he could improve after a full offseason of training. Far more importantly for Seattle, he’d be a star to attract more fans to T-Mobile Park and he’d make a huge impact in a lineup that needs his experience. Ultimately, Seattle might be the best spot for Kris Bryant.