Finally: Cubs mess with Kris Bryant after his first home run


Finally: Cubs mess with Kris Bryant after his first home run

MILWAUKEE — Kris Bryant returned to an empty dugout after hitting his first home run in The Show.  

The Cubs retreated through the tunnel that leads into Miller Park’s visiting clubhouse, messing with the rookie who patiently waited until his 21st game in the majors before finally driving one high over the wall in left-center field.

This became the highlight-reel clip during Saturday night’s ugly 12-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers: Bryant crushing a first-pitch slider from veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse in the third inning, sending it out toward Milwaukee’s bullpen for a three-run homer.

And the Cubs scattering by the time Bryant touched home plate and turned toward the visiting dugout, which is only a few steps away from the locker room.

[GIF: Check out the home run and celebration here]

“It was pretty funny that they all came in here,” Bryant said afterward, standing in front of his locker and towering over reporters. “They were all waiting over there by the door in kind of like a mosh pit, punching me and all that kind of stuff.”

Manager Joe Maddon said it was Anthony Rizzo’s idea, but the first baseman denied that and gave all the credit to bench coach Dave Martinez. Whatever. It’s clear that Bryant — who came into this season as Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect after leading all of minor-league baseball with 43 homers last year — has done a good job of blending in with his teammates.  

“I know the type of player I am,” Bryant said. “I’ve always hit home runs in my life. Just because I hadn’t hit one in my whole time up here, I wasn’t pressing at all. I was just trying to do my job to help the team win. That’s what I’ve said all along.

“So far, I’ve been doing a pretty good job. But I think I can do even better.”

[MORE: Respect 90: Kris Bryant will lead Cubs by example]

During his junior season at the University of San Diego, the 6-foot-5 slugger led the nation in home runs and out-homered more than 200 Division I programs, emerging as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Every time you looked up in spring training, it seemed like Bryant hit another home run. You would not have taken his 92nd plate appearance in the home-run pool.  

Until Bryant’s shot, the Cubs had zero three-run homers or grand slams this season. While they absolutely need his power this summer, he’s been contributing in other ways, making plays at third base, aggressively running the bases and giving this lineup another presence (.810 OPS).

“Everyone wants to define this young man by just hitting home runs — he’s a good baseball player,” Maddon said. “I met him in the winter meetings and never saw him play. Saw video of him, never saw him in person. (Our) people talked about his whole game, but I’m seeing it. I mean, it is an entire game.

[SHOP: Buy a Kris Bryant jersey]

“He definitely works the whole thing. It’s not just hitting. It’s not just trying to hit home runs. It’s good at-bats, looking over a pitch. His defense has been really good. His arm’s well above-average.

“Understand, he’s going to figure this out. He’s really that good. If you get a guy that plays to that level of mental acuity nightly, that young (23), with that kind of physical ability with the bat, it’s going to get real good.”

Bryant already had the baseball in a glass case on the top shelf of his locker.

“It’s a cool feeling,” Bryant said. “Just get the first one out of the way. It had kind of been awhile.”





Cubs aren’t trading Yu Darvish this winter, despite reported inquiries

Cubs aren’t trading Yu Darvish this winter, despite reported inquiries

Whether the Cubs trade a member of their position player core this winter — i.e. Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras — is to be determined. Both have been fixtures in rumors this offseason, and the Cubs may make a deal to replenish their barren farm system and retool their roster with the organization’s long-term stability in mind.

Yu Darvish, on the other hand, is a different story.

No, the Cubs won’t be trading Darvish this winter, despite the inquiries they received at the Winter Meetings this week, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

A year ago, this would be an entirely different conversation. Darvish was coming off a disappointing debut season on the North Side in which he made eight starts and posted a 4.95 ERA in 40 innings. He didn’t throw a single big-league pitch after May 20 due to a lingering arm issue that led to surgery last November.

2019 was only Year 2 of the lucrative six-year contract Darvish signed in February 2018. But between the injury and his struggles before it that season, the narrative entering 2019 was shifting towards Darvish being a potential bust.

The narrative around Darvish is obviously much different now, thanks to the stellar second half performance he put together last season. In 13 starts, the 33-year-old delivered a 2.76 ERA, striking out 118 batters compared to a mere seven walks in 81 2/3 innings.

Not only was Darvish walking the walk, but he was talking the talk. He was determined to turn things around after posting a 5.01 ERA in the first half, asking then manager Joe Maddon to start the Cubs’ first game after the All-Star break. The result? Six innings of two-hit, no-run ball with eight strikeouts and one walk. Darvish's comeback was officially on.

Bust? Darvish is far from it now. He opted in to the remaining four years of his contract earlier this offseason, calling the Cubs "perfect" for him.

If the Cubs were entering a rebuild, fielding Darvish trade offers would make plenty of sense. He's owed $81 million through 2023, a bargain compared to the deals Gerrit Cole (nine years, $324 million — Yankees) and Stephen Strasburg (seven years, $245 million — Nationals) earned this offseason. Darvish's contract is desirable, and trading him would help alleviate the Cubs' notoriously tight payroll situation, freeing up money for them to put towards other needs.

But the Cubs aren’t rebuilding, and trading Darvish would create a tremendous hole in a rotation with plenty of uncertainty after next season. José Quintana is set to hit free agency after 2020 and Jon Lester could join him, if his 2021 option doesn’t vest (he must pitch 200 innings next season for that to occur). Heck, even Tyler Chatwood's deal is up after 2020.

In one season, Darvish has elevated himself to the No. 1 pitcher in the Cubs rotation. The Cubs won't be better next season if they trade Bryant or Contreras, but they'd still be competitive and acquire assets for the future.

One player doesn't make a team in baseball, but the Cubs need Darvish in their rotation, not someone else's. Unless they're absolutely blown away by a trade offer, Darvish isn't going anywhere.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: MLB 2019 Winter Meetings come to an end

NBC Sports Chicago

Sports Talk Live Podcast: MLB 2019 Winter Meetings come to an end

SportsTalk Live is on location in San Diego for the final day of the MLB Winter Meetings.

0:00- Chuck Garfien, Tony Andracki and Vinnie Duber join Kap to recap the Winter Meetings. Tony was right-- the Cubs didn't make a move. Plus, should the White Sox have done more in San Diego?

12:00- Legendary baseball writer Peter Gammons joins Kap and Chuck. The talk about the price for pitching and what the Cubs might do with Kris Bryant. Plus, Gammons talks about a text he received saying the White Sox were talking with the Red Sox about Andrew Benintendi and David Price. Would that make sense for the Southsiders?

20:00- White Sox World Series winning closer Bobby Jenks joins Kap to discuss his emotional article in The Players Tribune. They discuss his injuries with the Red Sox, the back surgery that almost cost him his life and then his downward spiral into addiction.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast