Cubs

Cubs: Kris Bryant keeping his head up despite recent struggles

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Cubs: Kris Bryant keeping his head up despite recent struggles

It can be easy to forget that Kris Bryant is just 23 years old and only in his third week in the majors.

The top prospect in the game sounds mature beyond his years whenever he talks and when asked about his recent struggles, Bryant again said all the right things.

"It's baseball, man," he said before Sunday's series finale with the Brewers. "It happens all the time. Just play the game. Have fun with it. I never look into a bad game too much."

Bryant hasn't gotten a hit in his last 10 at-bats, watching his average dip from .341 to .280. He went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Saturday's loss and now has whiffed 18 times in his first 15 big-league games.

[RELATED - Cubs offense hits rough patch in loss to Brewers]

"That's what happens in the major leagues," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You have to adjust. He was swinging at some pitches out of the zone [Saturday] too.

"Just get back into the zone because that's something he had been doing well coming out of spring training. He wasn't chasing.

"He's been doing really well at maintaining the integrity of the strike zone. I'm fully confident he's going to do it again."

Bryant is in his usual No. 4 spot in the Cubs lineup Sunday and said Maddon has not talked to him about the slump.

"I don't think I need to be talked to," Bryant said. "I've been through this plenty of times before. It's part of the game. It's a hard game. The ball is small, the bat is small.

"You gotta take it with a grain of salt and learn from it and that's what I'll do."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Bryant called his slump a learning experience and said he knows he will have more rough games throughout this season and the rest of his career.

Maddon has been impressed with the way Bryant hasn't sacrificed his patient approach at the plate, for the most part. The slugger is still taking his walks - 12 on the season and four in the last four games.

With Bryant and some of the other young players like Jorge Soler and Addison Russell, Maddon has preached patience and focusing on changing their mentality rather than physical mechanics during struggles. The veteran manager understands these kids won't just figure it all out overnight.

After leading all of Major League Baseball with nine spring training homers and pacing professional baseball with 43 in the minors last season, Bryant is still without a longball in his first 15 games, spanning 50 at-bats now.

[MORE - Maddon, Cubs trying to 'unearth' Soler with lineup switch]

Cubs fans are getting impatient for Bryant's first homer, especially now that fellow rookie Russell hit his first Friday at Wrigley Field.

But don't point to that home run drought as a reason for Bryant's struggles.

"I don't necessarily see him trying too hard right now," Maddon said. "For the most part, he's been accepting his walks and working good at-bats.

"If it's really bothering him, I'm not really seeing it. But I do believe the moment he does, it will relax him a bit more. Get the monkey off his back."

For his part, Bryant insists he's not pressing at the plate, either.

"I could go the whole season without hitting a home run, as long as we're winning games," he said. "Right now, we're doing pretty good, so we'll see.

"But I know the type of player I am and like I said, it's a percentage game with me. I hit home runs and I'm due. Yesterday, I was due for a bad game. It happens."

Nationals make inquiry to Cubs about Kris Bryant trade, report says

Nationals make inquiry to Cubs about Kris Bryant trade, report says

In the event they lose All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon in free agency, the Nationals could turn to Kris Bryant as a replacement.

Tuesday, MLB.com's Jon Morosi reported the Nationals have "made an initial inquiry" to the Cubs about trading for Bryant.

Morosi added that Bryant isn't expected to be traded soon, as his market hinges on a) his unresolved service time grievance case and b) where Rendon and fellow free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson sign.

Monday, WSCR's Bruce Levine reported the Phillies and Cubs have discussed a Bryant trade. But similarly, there's nothing to the talks currently due to the two aforementioned factors.

There's also the chance the Cubs hang on to the 2016 National League MVP. They won't trade Bryant just for the sake of doing so, especially if they deem any trade offers as insufficient. But if they do decide to move him, it appears the Cubs will have several potential trade partners, at the least. 

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No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

SAN DIEGO — Theo Epstein's front office has a lot of difficult decisions to make this winter, but Ben Zobrist has yet to come up with his own tough answers.

The 2016 World Series MVP is currently a free agent after wrapping up his four-year deal with the Cubs. He played a major role on the team in September following a four-month absence to deal with a family matter. 

Zobrist, 38, said at the end of the season that he was unsure if he would call it quits after an impressive career or return for another season on the diamond. More than two months since he last put on a uniform, he still has not reached an answer:

If he does play another season, it would have to be in the right situation for his family. He's made enough money in his career and accomplished plenty — including hoisting a couple championship trophies — but he clearly still had the drive and desire to play, as he said in his September return.

The Cubs figure to be on the short list of teams that would make sense for Zobrist given the mutual familiarity, a home in Chicago and how the entire organization supported him as he stepped away from the team to address his personal life.

It would seem to fit from the Cubs' perspective as well, since they talked all season long about how they missed Zobrist's professional at-bats and his presence inside the clubhouse. 

But there is no traction on the reunion front at the moment.

"I haven't talked to him recently," Epstein said Monday. "I've talked to him since the season ended, but it was more just checking in on his family. As far as baseball, he hadn't made a decision at that point. He was gonna wait a while before deciding what to do. He left open the possibility, but that was it."

The Cubs have an avenue for playing time next season at second base and potentially in the outfield for Zobrist and they are currently searching for leadoff options. He proved he can still play at his advanced age by hitting .284/.388/.377 in September after months away from the game. He isn't an everyday guy anymore, but can still provide value as a role player.

If Zobrist decides to give it one more go, the price would have to be right for the financially-hamstrung Cubs, but a reunion would make a lot of sense for both sides.