DENVER – Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel hopped down from the chair set up next to his All-Star media availability sign.
“Let’s go,” he said, turning to teammate Kris Bryant. “Come on, Kris, they said we’re done.”
The group of reporters surrounding Bryant had thinned by then, compared to the gaggle of television cameras and audio recorders thrust in his face 45 minutes earlier. But the questions continued, and he stayed as other National League All-Stars cleared out of the promenade across from Coors Field.
Bryant fielded questions on a wide range of topics on Monday, from former teammates to the current state of the slumping Cubs.
One pesky topic kept popping up, both directly and indirectly: Were the Cubs going to trade Bryant at the deadline in less than three weeks?
“I give all of our Chicago media the same answer every time,” Bryant said. “I don't really have anything to add to it.”
Do you think about this, your fourth All-Star Game, being your last in a Cubs uniform?
“I don't think like that at all,” Bryant said. “But it could happen, that I could be here for two days, two months, two years, 10 years. It's all up in the air.”
Now that you’re married and have a child, would it be harder to leave Chicago?
“The baseball life is pretty crazy, in terms of moving and packing, you’re and always on the road and stuff like that,” Bryant said. “So, we know how to handle that. But Chicago has meant a whole lot to me and my family.”
Bryant has been dealing with trade rumors on and off for years now. This winter, he even got a text from a Connecticut number welcoming him to the Mets. But no actual rumors were needed to spark questions about Bryant’s future at the All-Star break -- just his contract status and the Cubs’ recent slide down the standings.
Bryant, along with fellow championship core members Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo, is in a walk year. And the Cubs, after losing 13 of their last 15 games, entered the break in third place in the NL Central, eight games back of the division-leading Brewers. They’re expected to be sellers at the deadline.
“That’s what we sign up for,” Kimbrel said of the business side of baseball, with just a 2022 team option left on his contract. “Obviously we signed a contract to play in Chicago, win ballgames in Chicago, win championships in Chicago, and that’s still my goal until they think otherwise.”
So, the trade questions floated to Bryant were only natural. The re-tooling Cubs have one last chance to trade Bryant or risk losing him in free agency if the two sides don’t agree on an extension.
Even as the organization is poised to transition from its old championship core, Bryant said the trade-rumor experience doesn’t feel much different this time around.
“If it does happen,” Bryant said, “whatever team I do go to will get a guy that’s going to go out there and give it all he’s got and play wherever they need me to play.”