MESA, Ariz. – When Theo Epstein addressed reporters last Monday, he admitted that when it came to any sort of assurance given to Kris Bryant about his status with the club, that, “no, nothing like that’s come up.”
That being said, Bryant isn’t entirely in the dark. He knows after an independent arbitrator ruled against him re: the grievance he filed against the Cubs back in 2015, he now won’t hit free agency until 2021. The other stuff – be it long-term extension conversations or trade rumors – is far murkier.
“I’m totally kept out of the loop on all that stuff,” Bryant said Saturday morning. “I’ve always expected to be here, and I am, and I’m very happy about it – ready to get going. Pretty cool seeing everybody in the clubhouse and really looking forward to getting going.”
Given that he’s an integral part of the first Cubs’ core to win a World Series in over 100 years – not to mention a former MVP with a sterling reputation – is there any part of Bryant that would maybe like to be, you know, in the loop about his team’s plans? Maybe the star third baseman deserves some sort of assurance, one way or the other, after all?
“I would like one. I guess I would like to be in the loop a little bit,” Bryant said. “It’s safe to say that obviously they don’t have to keep me in the loop by any means. But I feel like I’ve earned a little respect here just by how I go about my business, and just who I am as a player and a person too. Kind of sit down and have talks like that – who knows, it might happen.”
To be clear, Bryant doesn’t want to leave. He adamantly shot down the rumor from a few years back that claimed he turned down an extension “well-north” of $200 million, chalking it up as merely the overzealous media “throwing darts at a wall to see what sticks.” The comfort and familiarity with his routine, city and teammates is a huge draw for the soon-to-be father, and even the whispers of discontent with a front office that battled him in court this offseason are overblown.
“This is a total bargaining issue,” he said. “And it was just the team that was kind of the messenger in how it played out. That’s how I viewed it. It was never like, I hate the team, I hate this. It’s absolutely ridiculous seeing things like that, because that’s not who I am as a person. That’s not what I represent. I never hold grudges towards anybody. I don’t believe in that in my life, in general.”
Maybe that’s the case, and maybe it isn’t. Bryant’s a respectful guy and always knew winning the grievance was an uphill battle. Knowing where he stands within the organization – especially one that’s benefited so much from Bryant both on and off the field – shouldn’t be. He didn’t speak much with Epstein in the offseason (which sort of goes against what Theo told the media on Monday but that’s for another time), but reiterated that he's always open to sitting down with the front office in order to make more headway.
“Like I said ever since the very beginning, I’m always open to it, I’m always here to talk,” he added. “Of course you want to be here. But I don’t hold those cards, you know? I just go out there and play third base, and left field, and right field, and center field, and first base, and do what I do.”
Preparation for fatherhood couldn’t have come at a better time for Bryant, who joked that he’s been staying occupied with making sure his son will have the “the coolest shoe collection.” He also started taking guitar lessons at a local Guitar Center, an experience he jokingly insisted has motivated him into making sure his kid becomes a rock star.
The offseason’s over now, though, and Bryant admitted things are less easy to turn out from Mesa.
“I guess lately, as you get closer to spring, baseball mode is on, and you see more of it,” he said. “So that’s been a little difficult ... I guess there were trade rumors last offseason too, and going through that, I understand it’s part of the process as you get closer to free agency and everything’s up in the air. So I understand it, and I just really try my best to tune it out. It’s hard. It’s really hard.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.