Cubs’ Kris Bryant on trade rumors, desire to stay, Cubs’ ability to keep entire core ‘if they want to’

The 2016 MVP also refuted media reports that he was angry over losing his grievance hearing and that he ever got an extension offer for “well north of $200 million” — much less turned it down.

SHARE Cubs’ Kris Bryant on trade rumors, desire to stay, Cubs’ ability to keep entire core ‘if they want to’
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Kris Bryant speaks to reporters during spring training.

Gregory Bull/AP Photo

MESA, Ariz. – Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant doesn’t want to go anywhere else, he said on his first day of spring training Saturday.

He also said he never saw the mythical contract extension worth “well north of $200 million” he was reported to have turned down, never got mad at the Cubs when he lost his grievance over service-time manipulation last month and believes he has “earned” being kept in the loop on whether he’s about to get traded.

Bryant also criticized teams that use baseball’s luxury-tax threshold as a salary cap, said the Cubs have the financial ability to keep their entire All-Star core together “if they want to,” and after calling the Dodgers “admirable” for “really trying to win” in 2020 paused nine full seconds when asked if he thought his own team was trying to win this offseason.

“Well, we didn’t do much,” he said, noting he saw published comments from team president Theo Epstein about luxury tax concerns and the anticipation for years that a winter like this could be coming. “Of course, it would have been nice to add people, but I don’t know who we would have added to make it better. I believe in this team that we have.”

And so it begins.

The player least likely to make it to camp before being traded arrived with 35 minutes of stuff to clarify and get off his chest as he met with Chicago media for the first time since Epstein closed out last season by declaring the Cubs were open to trading anyone on their roster.

“The biggest thing with the trade rumors that has disappointed me is the fact that I feel like people – not everybody – [are saying] the reasoning behind it is, ‘Let’s get rid of him now, because he doesn’t want to be here in two years,’ “ Bryant said. “Never once have I said I never wanted to play here. … Of course, I would love to play here.”

That’s not likely beyond the two years remaining of the club’s control over Bryant – if he makes it even past the trade deadline this year. And that has less to do with Bryant’s desire to stay than the club’s ability or willingness to pay projected market value on a long-term deal at a time of overall competitive uncertainty and with several other All-Star players reaching big-payday points in their careers.

Asked whether the Cubs can “afford” to keep all of the arbitration-level talent in its core, including All-Stars Bryant, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras, Bryant said: “I haven’t looked at the math of whatever the payroll situation is. But I know that we just got this new [Marquee] network for a lot of money. And the Cubs are one of the most profitable teams out there and one of the most desirable teams – people always want to go to Wrigley Field and watch the game. They want to go to Wrigleyville and see all the bars and everything that’s built up.

“The Ricketts family has done a really good job in terms of just changing everything about this franchise. And there’s certainly money out there. It’s a very profitable game. It’s just a matter of if they want to. …It would certainly be cool.”

Other topics Bryant (who’s also a union representative for the Cubs) addressed:

On whether he deserves assurances he won’t be traded, at least during the spring, in the wake of Epstein saying Tuesday he’d offered no assurances:

“I would like one. I would like to be in the loop a little bit. Obviously, they don’t have to keep me in the loop by any means. I feel like I’ve earned a little respect here, just how I go about my business and just who I am as a player and a person, too, to sit down and have talks like that. Who knows, it might happen. …It would be nice. But I’m going with the flow, man.”

On whether it works against him that Scott Boras is his agent, helping fuel the assumption that he’ll take Bryant to free agency rather than accept an extension:

“Scott’s the best at what he does. …I think he understands that he’s going to get a lot of blowback for how he goes about things, but that’s what makes him the best, and he really fights for you. But I am my own person. I make my own decisions.

“I hope I don’t come across as arrogant or greedy or any of those terms because that’s not who I am; that’s not what I believe in. And Scott’s always told me the same thing: ‘I’m going to do what you want me to do.’ … He works for me. He does an unbelievable job, but at the end of the day he always knows that what I say goes.”

On reaction to losing the grievance (preserving the two years of club control):

“Yeah [smiles], I flipped over tables. Me and Theo got face to face . No, I mean, I guess maybe [there were] a little bit of emotions, because it is your career, your livelihood and you want the best. … But I knew it was an uphill battle the whole way. We had a great case. Probably the best one ever, if you look at 2013 [college player of the year], 2014 [minor league player of the year] and [huge] spring training in 2015. I definitely felt that responsibility to take it on and to be like, ‘I want to be the guy that fights for this, because I think that this is right and it’s going to help us in two years.’ … No, I didn’t flip any tables or any of that. It was respectful from the get-go.

“My mom and dad have always told me to stand up for what I believe in, and I was going to see the process through, and I saw it through. Respect on both ends. There’s definitely no hard feelings so let’s definitely put that narrative to bed.”

On whether the grievance was directed more against then system than the team:

“Of course. This is a total bargaining issue. The team was just 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 [reported] like that, because that’s not who I am as a person. That’s not what I represent. I never hold grudges against anybody. … I saw this as I have one chance at my career and I’m trying to put myself in the best possible situation, because I’m not getting any younger. Obviously it would have been great to win. But I lost. We move on. And no hard feelings. We’re playing baseball.”

On whether teams use the luxury-tax threshold as a salary cap:

“Certain teams are less likely to use it as that, but definitely. It’s a same to see it used that way. But as much as this part isn’t great for us to see, maybe we need to experience this and see how bad this really is and fight for stuff that we see needs to be changed. You can’t fault every team, but it certainly seems to be like a cap.”

On upcoming negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement:

“The last round I think we as players really took a whupping. And it’s up to us to fight for things we think are right.”

On MVP Mookie Betts being traded in a salary dump and players such as Bryant and Francisco Lindor being shopped in trade talks:

“You think about the teams that are acquiring them, too. It’s like the Dodgers [who got Betts] are doing all they can to win. That’s kind of admirable. They’re really going for it. … I wish more teams would follow that, in terms of really trying to win and go all in. But I can’t speak on behalf of the [other] teams. …”

On trying to ignore media reports during the winter:

“Obviously, Twitter is completely off of my phone since two years ago. It’s the worst thing to ever happen to this world. And then Instagram was gone off my phone last year. But I have friends, and they send me screenshots of what [media] say. So I’ve seen stuff second hand, but I really try to avoid it.”

On activities he did to keep his mind off rumors, beyond preparing for the baby he and his wife are expecting in April:

“I took guitar lessons at Guitar Center. It’s very peaceful, relaxing. I’ve been joking with my wife. I’ve always told her my kid’s not going to play baseball. He’s going to be a rock star. I’m going to put a guitar in his hand. He’s going to take singing classes, piano, whatever it is. …But my dad will probably give him a baseball bat, and we’ll forget about all that.”

On the mythical “200 million” extension offer he reportedly turned down:

“ ‘Well north of 200 million,’ yeah. No [laughing]. Where are those [numbers]? I’ve never seen them. Never. When that came out [a year ago] I was on the golf course with my dad, and I’m like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ AT the time I felt like I’m going to let this slide. There wasn’t trade rumors [like this year]. I mean, there were, but it wasn’t like, ‘Get rid of him; he doesn’t want to be here; he hates Chicago; he hates Theo; he hates the Cubs.’ Now I’m like, ‘I need to stick up [for myself]. I love everybody here. I love the city.”

On whether he thought he might get traded before spring training:

“Obviously, yeah, with all the craziness that’s going on. … I’m very happy about [being here] and ready to get going.”

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