If the low-revenue Rays were going to trade for high-priced players such as Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel, they would have needed to be creative, right?
Well, the Rays were creative — or at least, they discussed creative ideas. None of those ideas ultimately came to fruition. But the discussions the Rays held with the Cubs on Bryant and Kimbrel, in separate deals and together, offered a glimpse into how Tampa Bay and many other clubs operate at the trade deadline, when conversations are free flowing and almost every name is in play.
For Bryant alone, the Rays and Cubs talked about a deal that would have sent center fielder Kevin Kiermaier and prospects to Chicago, according to major-league sources. That trade, however, would have been relatively straightforward compared to a bigger deal the teams kicked around for Bryant and Kimbrel — one that centered around injured Rays ace right-hander Tyler Glasnow.
The discussions between the Rays and Cubs extended into Friday, the day of the deadline. In the end, the Cubs parted with Bryant and Kimbrel in separate deals, sending Bryant to the Giants for outfielder Alexander Canario and right-hander Caleb Kilian, and Kimbrel to the White Sox for second baseman Nick Madrigal and right-handed reliever Codi Heuer.
The Rays on July 22 had added nearly $5 million in payroll by acquiring designated hitter Nelson Cruz from the Twins. They received clearance from ownership, sources said, to pursue both Bryant, who was owed nearly $7 million in the final year of his contract, and Kimbrel, who was owed about $5.6 million and can be retained on a $16 million option for 2022. But in both concepts, the Cubs would have assumed financial obligations, too.