Enjoy them while they last.
The rightful places Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel took in baseball’s spotlight Sunday night with their selections as Cubs All-Stars might as well have been the middle of crosshairs for what comes next on baseball’s calendar after the July 13 All-Star game in Denver.
If we didn’t know it a week or two ago — and didn’t want to believe it even a few days ago — reality was dumped on the Cubs’ doorstep when the Reds swept them out of Cincinnati with a 3-2 decision Sunday that handed the Cubs their ninth consecutive loss.
That leaves 21 games before the trade deadline to enjoy what’s left of the Cubs’ careers of Kimbrel, Bryant and any of another half-dozen or so short-time Cubs who might command a decent price from a contender before the deadline.
Make that 22 games for Kimbrel and Bryant, whose impressive bounce-back starts to 2021 have earned them their eighth and fourth All-Star selections, respectively.
Kimbrel almost certainly will be in high demand and gone by the deadline as the Cubs inevitably shift from buyers to sellers through a miserable stretch that reached 15 losses in 19 games on Sunday.
Whether Bryant — or Zach Davies, Andrew Chafin, Joc Pederson or even Javy Báez — is plucked from the Cubs’ clearance rack between now and then figures only to be a matter of market forces and strength of offers at this point.
And they know it. Whether they choose to acknowledge it or not.
“It’s been going on for three years,” Bryant said of trade talk surrounding his name when asked about it earlier in the weekend. “I’m not thinking about it. I thought about it three years ago. But whatever happens, happens.”
Kimbrel, like most veteran teammates, understood the high stakes of the team's June performance, along with his looming status as a potential trade chip, well before the bottom fell out the second half of the month.
“It’s the nature of the business,” he said a few weeks ago. “There’s a lot of money involved in this game. This is how it works.”
When it comes to the money part, it’s not hard to point a finger at the top of the organization for the shortcomings that eventually brought down the players’ best chance at a bid for an upstart, upset division title this year.
Steep cost-cutting by the Ricketts family ownership over the winter compelled the salary-dump trade of Yu Darvish to the Padres and the non-tender decision of slugger Kyle Schwarber, who subsequently was signed by the Nationals.
Both joined Bryant and Kimbrel as National League All-Stars on Sunday.
“The Cubs are a good team this year,” Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw said during a recent conversation with NBC Sports Chicago in Los Angeles. “They’re going to be in the hunt. And it’d be interesting to see what they would do, regardless. But it would be even more interesting if they had Darvish to see what they could do.
“Yu’s a bona fide ace. He’s still dominating the league. We have to face him more now because of it. And we see him a lot. And he’s a stud.”
But it could be worse, right?
In the case of Bryant, the Cubs manipulated his service-time in 2015 to get this seventh season of club control over his services — for whatever that winds up being worth for a team that by Sunday night was as close to fourth place in the National League Central as second.
Again, enjoy it while it lasts.
Since being drafted second overall in 2013, Bryant has been nothing but a model citizen and high performer, when healthy, for the organization. He’s made four of the six All-Star games held during his career and won both Rookie of the Year and MVP awards his first two years in the league.
The Cubs got its one coveted championship out of that run with Bryant, and Rizzo, Báez, Kyle Hendricks and Willson Contreras.
And now it’s onto the next competitive core, whatever that might look like, however long that might take to assemble.
Whatever sour taste that might leave for many of those asked to pay big-market prices to watch this big-market team play small-market ball again.
None of this diminishes what Kimbrel and Bryant have accomplished this season, what they earned with Sunday’s announcement, both elected by their peers.
But it does make the All-Star game a showcase — and Coors Field the showroom — for their value later this month.
And maybe one final chance to enjoy their talents in a Cubs uniform on one of the game’s big stages.