If he gets traded, Kris Bryant will be open to the idea of returning to the Cubs as a free agent this winter, a double-dip that would allow the big-market franchise to replenish the farm system and ultimately retain a homegrown MVP as it tries to build the next great team on Chicago’s North Side.
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Bryant said Tuesday at Wrigley Field. “Like I’ve said, I love this place. It’s all I’ve known. The familiarity of being here and this city and the people make it a lot easier to say, ‘Yeah, of course, I’d love to play here.’”
That sounds too good to be true. Bryant could love the next city and feel a different sense of loyalty if he earns a second World Series ring with a new team. A strong playoff performance could boost his free-agent stock to another level and it’s unclear when the Cubs will be doing deals at the top of the market again. But it’s at least a window into his thinking with less than 72 hours until Friday’s trade deadline.
Bryant’s entire major-league career has been played out against the expectations of being a franchise savior, a service-time grievance filed by the Major League Baseball Players Association and the frequent buzz of trade rumors. He’s a Scott Boras client who understands the business side of the game. It would still be natural to wonder if this might be the last time he plays with Anthony Rizzo or when his final at-bat in a Cubs uniform will take place at Wrigley Field.
“I just don’t try to make anything crazier than it is,” Bryant said. “That’s just baseball. That’s the way that things go. It would be cool to play here my whole career. But like I’ve said, I don’t really control that. Front offices have their agenda and what they want to do. Owners know what they want to do moving forward. I don’t know where I fit into those plans. But we’ll find out either today or a couple days or two months from now.”
The Cubs and Rays have held preliminary discussions involving Bryant, ESPN reported Tuesday, though Tampa Bay already made a big move to strengthen its offense by acquiring designated hitter Nelson Cruz from the Twins. The Padres, Red Sox, Mets, Yankees and White Sox are among the teams that have had scouts at Wrigley Field during this seven-game homestand leading into the trade deadline.