MLB Free Agency: Finding ex-Cubs Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo fits

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Finding fits for ex-Cubs Bryant, Rizzo, Schwarber originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Javy Báez was among the flurry of free agents who signed deals before MLB implemented a lockout in early December, landing a six-year deal from the Tigers.

As far as the rest of the core the Cubs sent packing over the last calendar year or so, the future is less certain.

Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are among the 100+ free agents who will be looking for their next team whenever the lockout ends.

Bryant and Rizzo, whom the Cubs traded at the 2021 deadline, are free agents for the first time. Schwarber is on the market for a second straight year after the Cubs non-tendered him last winter.

The Cubs are unlikely to pursue reunions with any of the trio, so where might they land? Glad you asked.

NBC Sports Chicago looked into the crystal ball to see which teams could come calling for Bryant, Rizzo and Schwarber after the lockout ends.

Anthony Rizzo

Best fit: Yankees

The Yankees acquired Rizzo from the Cubs last July, and there seems to be mutual interest in a reunion.

“He obviously was really good for us, we feel, both on the offensive side and the defensive side, and the leadership side,” said Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who had at least initial conversations with Rizzo’s agent about a possible return early in the offseason, at the GM Meetings in November.

“So he brings a lot of good things to the table.”

RELATED: How ex-Cubs Rizzo, Báez fit New York state of mind

Bob Klapisch of the Newark Star-Ledger reported in October that, “according to a family member,” Rizzo is “quite eager” to return to New York. Rizzo also spoke glowingly about his time with the Yankees during a December appearance on “The Compound” podcast.

The Yankees have been linked to A’s first baseman Matt Olson in trade rumors but acquiring him likely would come at a significant prospect cost. And while there’s rumblings they could pursue Freddie Freeman, Rizzo won’t command nearly as big a contract.

Dark horse: Braves

Freeman returning to the Braves this winter seemed like a foregone conclusion. Instead, he's still on the market following the pre-lockout free agent frenzy.

Reports suggest the number of years has been a hold up in negotiations between Freeman and Atlanta. As an act of due diligence, the Braves explored Rizzo, among other first base options, before the lockout, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Freeman returning to Atlanta seems more likely than not. But if he signs elsewhere, Rizzo — a fellow Gold Glove winner and left-handed bat — could make a lot of sense as an alternative for the Braves.

Kris Bryant

Best fit: Mariners

The Mariners are looking to add a marquee player to their roster of up-and-coming young talent.

“We have a variety of different ways we can address our team,” Mariners president Jerry Dipoto said at the GM Meetings. “We are most interested in players who have the versatility to do a couple of different things, because it allows us to be creative in how we fill those gaps.

“But at the end of the day we want to improve our talent base, and we want to improve our run-scoring capability.”

MORE: Giant loss? Why Kris Bryant’s best fit up coast in Seattle

Enter Kris Bryant.

Seattle reportedly tried to acquire Bryant at the 2021 trade deadline, and he’s perhaps an even better fit now. Not only can he move around the diamond, but the Mariners have an opening at third base, Bryant's natural position, with the departure (and retirement) of Kyle Seager.

The Mariners have plenty of payroll flexibility, and Seattle’s proximity to Las Vegas — where Bryant resides in the offseason — and Arizona, the Mariners’ spring training home, are other potential draws.

Dark horse (tie): Phillies, Giants

Bryant already has a built-in advocate in Philadelphia in Bryce Harper, a fellow Vegas native and longtime friend, and the Phillies checked in with Bryant’s camp back in November.

The Phillies have questions in their outfield outside of Harper, and third baseman Alec Bohm is coming off a down 2021 season. At the very least, Bryant could rotate between third and the outfield, which is smaller and more forgiving on his versatility than other ballparks.

From the outside looking in, the Giants might make the most sense for Bryant. He grew up a Giants fan and said he loved being there after San Francisco acquired him from the Cubs at last summer’s deadline.

However, at the beginning of the offseason, team president Farhan Zaidi signaled the Giants might not be willing to go big for Bryant in free agency.

“For us, the move at the deadline was really about pushing the chips in with this team,” Zaidi said. “We recognize that he's a superstar talent and it's going to be a really competitive market for his services.

“I'm sure we'll have conversations there, but he's going to have a long line of suitors, so we'll just have to see how that develops."

Kyle Schwarber

Best fit (tie): Phillies, Rockies

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reported the Phillies were in “full pursuit” of Kyle Schwarber in the days leading up to the lockout.

Schwarber, who’s coming off his first All-Star nod, would add a lefty power bat to the Phillies' lineup alongside Harper. They have a need in left field, Schwarber’s primary position, and the likely addition of a universal DH would present another lineup option.

The Rockies are looking to upgrade their outfield offense this winter and add a power bat to the lineup. How about Schwarber, who checks both boxes and is someone they had interest in before the lockout?

Schwarber hit .266/.374/.554 in 113 games last season. Despite missing a month with a hamstring injury, he hit 32 home runs, the second-most of his career.

Imagine how many he would hit if Coors Field was his home ballpark.

Dark horse: Red Sox

By all accounts, the Red Sox loved Schwarber after acquiring him from the Nationals at the deadline last season. He made a strong impression in their clubhouse and is coming off his best season.

Schwarber picked up first base on the fly after the trade, offering the Red Sox more lineup combinations. There isn’t an ideal roster fit with the Red Sox, but don’t sleep on the impression he made during his two-month stint.

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