MESA, Ariz. — There haven’t been many trade rumors that star third baseman Kris Bryant hasn’t been involved in over the last three offseasons.
But following some of the Cubs’ early moves in this one — including trading Yu Darvish to the Padres in December and the departures of Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. — it was natural to wonder if this would finally be the year the Cubs and Bryant parted ways.
Despite the team’s claims this would be the “Year of Transition” and some initial steps in that direction, much of the Cubs’ core remains this spring. Bryant, 29, has learned to brush off trade reports over the years. But this offseason, he has additional clarity about his situation with the Cubs, which has given him some solace.
“I’ve had good conversations with [team president] Jed [Hoyer],” Bryant said. “Just good communication. He’s letting me know what’s going on. I can ask him what’s true, what’s not true. And the main thing I got from him is that most of it is not true. So that’s, uh, you know — I wasn’t surprised.”
The chatter included reports out of New York on Feb. 11 that the Mets were in serious discussions with the Cubs about an imminent trade for Bryant.
“I guess there was something that came out saying I’m gonna get traded in 48 hours,” Bryant said. “Obviously, that was completely wrong. . . . I got a text, like, that weekend: ‘Welcome to the Mets.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, well ... what?’ It’s a Connecticut number. I don’t know who it was.
“Obviously, I called my agent, he calls [Hoyer], and he said there’s nothing going on. That’s the kind of stuff that I feel is nice to know, when there’s something that’s completely false. . . . At the end of the day, we are all human. And sometimes when you get a text that says something like that, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ That might kind of mess with me a little bit, but . . . like I said, I’ve been answering these questions for three years now.”
Hoyer also told reporters earlier this month that reports of Bryant going to the Mets were fictional — a result of preliminary discussions that went no further.
The two have had a good relationship since Bryant was drafted in 2013, when Hoyer was the Cubs’ general manager. Bryant has seen the benefits since Hoyer replaced Theo Epstein as team president in November.
“He just reached out to me,” Bryant said. “I had dialogue with my camp, I guess. That’s the cool word to say: ‘my camp.’ Just asking questions. But he’s been really transparent with me and my side. Honestly, I really appreciated that. I’ve never had that type of security or communication, so that was met very well, and I really appreciate that from him, and I let him know that. We’re on great terms.”
There’s no telling what’s in store for Bryant now, although he did say Thursday he would sit down with the Cubs to consider the possibility of a long-term deal — a position he has held for a few seasons.
His future may be determined by how he plays to start the year. He’s coming off a shortened 2020 season in which he struggled to find his way offensively, slashing just .206/.293/.351 with four homers and 11 RBI. If the Cubs expect to make any noise in the National League Central, Bryant and the rest of the offensive core will have to perform.
He’ll be playing for team success and his own trajectory, either in Chicago or elsewhere.
“The talk for years [has been] ‘Is this the last hurrah?’ or ‘Is this it?’ ” Bryant said. “It’s a broken record every single year. I don’t know what to say. I just kind of go back on what I said in the past and use that: I don’t have anything else to add. [I have] a lot of really good friends here — not just teammates, but really good friends and good people. I just enjoy taking the field and being here alongside these guys every day.”