Vegas was in the house Friday in the unmistakable form of that big-hitting former MVP who is represented by agent Scott Boras.
“He’s not signing here,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said of Las Vegas neighbor and pal Bryce Harper — whose continued absence from anything Cub didn’t prevent Harper from being a constant reference for this team and its do-nothing winter as the annual convention opened at the Sheraton Grand.
So much for all of Harper’s trolling of Cubs fans the last two years leading up to his free agency. So much for the occasional weekly speculation — such as Thursday’s podcast out of Philadelphia that sent Chicago a-Twitter with the mere opinion the Cubs were still one of the teams in the running for Harper.
So much for that dog named Wrigley.
“I don’t know how old his dog is, but I think it’s been named Wrigley for a long time,” Bryant said. “I think it’s a cool pet name. My cat’s named Wrigley. And I had a cat named Fenway.”
Heads up, Boston. Bryant becomes a free agent after 2021.
Meanwhile, with Harper nowhere near the 2019 landscape and the Cubs left to their own, internal devices to improve an offense that “broke” in 2018, take a second, long look at the man in the electric blue suit Friday.
You want your impact addition to the lineup in 2019? A former MVP to give the offense an ingredient missing in 2018?
Maybe Bryant can fill that Harper hole — maybe he’s capable of being the big bat the Cubs add.
“There’s no reason to think I’m not,” said Bryant, who missed significant time on the disabled list last year because of a recurring shoulder issue. “Last year didn’t work out for me. But I’ll toot my horn a little bit: I was top three in MVP [2015 and ’16] except my first year when I was 11th.
“That’s what I expect out myself. Without getting into my personal stats and stuff, I expect myself to do that every year. There’s no reason to think I won’t do that.”
Especially since the shoulder is “perfect,” said Bryant, who has been swinging a bat since Dec. 1.
“And I’m swinging it really hard,” he said, smiling. “I feel great. I feel very strong. I can’t say enough about how good I feel.”
That’s not to say the Cubs couldn’t use Harper to go with the return of Bryant.
“It’s confusing to me,” Bryant said of the fact that Harper and superstar Manny Machado both remain unsigned in the middle of January during the second consecutive slow-moving winter of free agency. “I think if I was an owner or president or GM, I would love to have Bryce Harper or Manny Machado on my team.”
That’s an issue Bryant is monitoring as a union player rep for the Cubs — and a player whose own free agency coincides with the expiration of the current collective-bargaining agreement.
Meanwhile, he doesn’t have much to monitor when it comes to personnel changes on his team.
“But I like our team,” he said. “We won the World Series with a lot of the people in this room, and there’s no reason we can’t do it again.”