The final hours before the MLB trade deadline can be stressful for any veteran potentially on the move, but for Kris Bryant, it almost was a surreal experience.
Bryant had spent parts of the last three seasons dealing with trade rumors, and they ramped up this year as his first taste of free agency approached and it became clear the Chicago Cubs were tearing down and starting over. And yet there he was, on July 30, the last one standing after Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and others had already been shipped away.
"I was just like, how is this happening right now?" Bryant recalled on Monday's Giants Talk podcast. "I thought I would be the first one to go."
Bryant was last, but he ended up getting the best destination, at least as far as winning goes. He joined a Giants team that had the best record in baseball on deadline day and on Sunday became the first MLB team to 80 wins.
The Giants are in this position because of talent and execution, smart roster-building and incredible coaching. But they're also MLB's best team because of chemistry. This is a group that seems to have 26 guys pulling in the same direction for nine innings every night, and veterans like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt have said this is as good a group of guys as they've seen in a Giants clubhouse.
Bryant saw that right away. He compared the 2021 Giants clubhouse to the one he experienced in 2016 as the Cubs broke their infamous curse.
"You know, after each win it's celebrated. There's fun in the clubhouse, people are enjoying their time with each other, they're hanging out after games," Bryant said. "I've been a part of clubhouses like that before and we won a World Series, I think, because we had that kind of atmosphere in Chicago. I see it here, too.
"I really am enjoying being a part of that again, because it doesn't happen every year."
The Giants are 15-5 since Bryant made his debut about 48 hours after the blockbuster trade. Perhaps the best example of what Bryant is talking about came over the weekend. LaMonte Wade Jr. came off the bench to hit a game-winning homer on Saturday, and a day later his spot was taken by Donovan Solano, who also hit a game-winning homer. There never seems to be any grumbling about playing time, just a dugout that explodes with each big hit.
"This game is so long and it's hard and sometimes your own personal goals get in the way of that sometimes," Bryant said. "It's hard to go out there and perform every day, but guys in this clubhouse, it doesn't matter what you do individually. If we're winning, that's all we want to do. I think when you focus on that then your own individual play gets better. Your numbers go up, and I think you're seeing that a lot with a lot of guys here."
That includes Bryant, who has lived up to expectations while moving all around the diamond. He has a .274/.329/.507 slash line with the Giants and on Saturday he hit his fourth homer in 19 appearances.
Bryant had to wait longer than expected to finally get traded, but it all worked out in the end.
"I'm happy I'm here, I'm happy I'm helping the team," he said. "What a great place to play."