MESA, Ariz. — Whether he’ll actually be kept in the loop on trade talks any more than he was in the past, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant sounded confident that he’ll remain with the team at least through the season after meeting with team president Theo Epstein on Sunday.
“Everything went great,” Bryant reported Tuesday. “It was the best meeting I had with a superior. He just gave me insight as to what kind of happened in the offseason.”
Bryant said the meeting included no assurances of being kept apprised of any further trade talks that might arise. But when asked if he believed after the conversation that he’ll be with the Cubs on Opening Day, he said, “Yes, I do.”
And past the July 31 trade deadline?
“Yep. I’m a Chicago Cub.”
Bryant, who in January lost his grievance against the team alleging service-time manipulation, has been available since Epstein closed the 2019 season by suggesting big changes were coming over the winter — and that the Cubs would be open to trading any player on the roster.
But at this point, a strong 2020 start all but assures the Cubs will let their roster and payroll ride the wave through the trade deadline.
General manager Jed Hoyer, who lauded Bryant’s attitude coming into camp after a winter of uncertainty, suggested Bryant is right to believe he won’t be traded this season.
“That’s certainly the expectation,” Hoyer said.
Payroll budget concerns made Bryant — who turned down overtures for a contract extension early in his career — the likeliest of the Cubs’ core to be moved, given his value as a three-time All-Star and 2016 MVP, his two more years of club control and his salary level ($18.6 million this year, with one more year of arbitration eligibility left).
Epstein offered no guarantees that a big trade — involving anybody — is off the table now. But, he said, “we’re kind of turning the page with our focus” to preparing for the season.
Bryant appreciated getting stronger assurances that he’ll remain with the team all year.
“Like I said, it sure would be nice,” he said. “But they by no means have to do that for any of us players.
“It was just a really great meeting. I felt great coming out of it. And it wasn’t like we were just talking about stuff that happened in the offseason. [Epstein] was giving me advice on being a dad [baby due in April] and stuff like that. It was just cool to sit down and just get that off our chest and our checklist and move on. And I’m ready to play ball and win a ton of games. I really am.”