Josh Donaldson joining Twins is best-case scenario for Cubs, Kris Bryant trade market

Tim Stebbins

The Kris Bryant trade market just became a whole lot clearer.

Tuesday, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson and the Twins have agreed to a four-year contract. The deal is worth $92 million and includes a fifth-year option that could make it worth $100 million.

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Donaldson has also been linked to the Rangers, Nationals and Braves - whom he played for last season - this winter, with the Twins being more of a dark horse candidate. He becomes the latest star free agent third basemen to depart from his incumbent team this offseason - Anthony Rendon left the Nationals for the Angels; Mike Moustakas left the Brewers for the Reds.

For the Cubs, Donaldson's decision is the best-case scenario.

Teams seeking third base help this offseason have had the option to sign Donaldson in free agency. Adding Donaldson 'only' meant handing him a hefty paycheck, whereas Bryant will cost top prospects and/or young, controllable players - on top of his $18.6 million salary for 2020.

Like Donaldson, Bryant has been linked to the Braves and Nationals (among others) this winter. Now that both have missed out on Donaldson - on top of Washington also losing Rendon - both clubs could turn to Bryant and the Cubs to address their third base vacancies.

Bryant's name has been a fixture in trade rumors this winter, though they've been "greatly exaggerated," according to NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan. His ongoing service time grievance case is largely to blame for this, as potential suitors can't negotiate a deal without knowing if Bryant has one or two more years of club control.

The Cubs don't have to trade Bryant, but they're keeping the long-term future of the organization in mind. Bryant could depart in free agency after 2021 (or next offseason, pending the outcome of the grievance) and trading him would help the team retool and maximize Bryant's value, if they don't believe they can re-sign him.

The Braves have the blue-chip prospects to get a deal done, though MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported Bryant is "especially unlikely" for Atlanta. And although the Cubs and Nationals have reportedly discussed Bryant this winter, the talks have gone nowhere, with Washington reluctant to include 22-year-old center fielder Victor Robles in a trade package.

But things can change fast, and both clubs could now be extra motivated to make a splash at third base to replace Donaldson and Rendon, respectively. The Rockies dealing third baseman Nolan Arenado this offseason is viewed as a long shot, making Bryant the clear-cut top third baseman potentially available for trade.

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Josh Donaldson joining Twins is best-case scenario for Cubs, Kris Bryant trade market originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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