Rockies’ Kris Bryant wishes former team good luck in ‘different era of Cubs baseball’
Bryant won a World Series, Rookie of the Year and MVP during his Cubs tenure.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Eight months ago, a blue-pinstripe-clad Kris Bryant sat outside Coors Field, telling reporters how honored he felt each time he put on the Cubs’ uniform.
On Thursday, he donned a Rockies warmup shirt in front of a locker bearing his name at Salt River Fields.
‘‘It kind of has come full circle with the two teams that were really on me coming out of the draft,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘I get a chance to play for both of them.’’
The Cubs and Rockies play Friday at Sloan Park, pitting the team that drafted Bryant against the one that just signed him for the next seven years. Bryant doesn’t expect to be at that game. Veterans often get a home-game-heavy schedule in spring training.
If Bryant did show up Friday in Mesa, he wouldn’t recognize many players in the opposite dugout.
When the Cubs traded Bryant to the Giants at the trade deadline last season, they also sent Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees and Javy Baez to the Mets. The only players from the Cubs’ 2016 World Series team still on the roster are Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward and Kyle Hendricks.
‘‘You can look at it like, hey, we’re all getting older, so there’s new people coming in,’’ Bryant said with a smile during a conversation Thursday with the Sun-Times. ‘‘That’s the way I’m looking at it. Definitely a different era of Cubs baseball and wishing them the best of luck — just not against us.
‘‘It’s always a special place for me, Chicago. We loved everything about our experience there, and we’re going to love our whole experience here in Colorado.’’
Along with getting older, Bryant, Rizzo and Baez had reached their last year of club control. And the Cubs didn’t strike extensions with any of them. Rizzo memorably cut off negotiations ahead of Opening Day — a deadline he already had established — and held a news conference to say he was ‘‘at peace’’ with the impasse.
Eventually, the Cubs charted a path without any of them, a decision that launched them into building back from a trade-deadline sell-off. Or, as the Cubs put it, building ‘‘the next great Cubs team.’’
Last week, Bryant signed a seven-year, $182 million contract, hoping to be part of the next great Rockies team.
‘‘The Rockies, from the very beginning, were like, ‘We want you here,’ ’’ Bryant said. ‘‘And that was a really good feeling, especially early on. And it made me excited about the opportunity here.’’
The relationship went back much further than this offseason. Bryant thought he was going to be drafted by the Rockies at No. 3 overall, right after the Cubs’ pick, in 2013. And when the Rockies came courting Bryant this winter, they didn’t have to sell him on the stadium or facilities. During All-Star festivities last season, the home side of Coors Field blew Bryant away.
After news of Bryant’s signing got out, Cubs manager David Ross sent him a congratulatory text message. Chairman Tom Ricketts and president of business operations Crane Kenney also texted right away, Bryant said.
‘‘To see what KB got,’’ Ross said, ‘‘just from his text back, he seems pretty excited.’’
The current Rockies reminded Bryant of the Cubs team he initially joined.
There are, of course, differences in market size. And it’s hard to ignore the Rockies’ trade saga involving Nolan Arenado or Trevor Story’s confusion when the team held on to him through the deadline last summer.
Take a step back, however, and the similarities in trajectory are clear. When the Cubs called Bryant up in 2015, they were in a six-year playoff drought and hadn’t won the World Series in more than a century. The Rockies’ last postseason appearance came in 2018, and they haven’t won the Fall Classic in their history.
‘‘You bring in a lot of veteran dudes who have done it before and have that playoff experience,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘And I certainly have that. There’s some guys in this room that do, too.
‘‘But when you have someone that has been through the pressure cooker in a city that demanded a lot, I can use a lot of that experience, help answer questions here and lead by example. And just go out there and play, do what I know how to do. And hopefully we can write some history here, just like I did in Chicago.’’
Nine miles from the Rockies’ spring-training site, the Cubs were also coming full circle.
President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer promised this phase wouldn’t be a repeat of 2012 and 2013. And the Cubs’ signings of Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki, who is scheduled to make his spring-training debut Friday, have supported that commitment.
But Hoyer is borrowing some tactics from the playbook he and his predecessor, Theo Epstein, used when they first took charge of the Cubs’ baseball-operations department.
With Bryant hoping to play a Jon Lester-type role with the Rockies, which veterans will pry open the Cubs’ championship window? And might this trade-deadline play out for Contreras the same way last summer did for Baez, Rizzo and Bryant?
Asked what he had learned from experience in 2021, Bryant pondered for a moment.
‘‘I don’t think he needs any advice,’’ Bryant said of Contreras. ‘‘He’s going to go out there and play with heart and passion, and I’m sure he won’t even think about it the whole year. That’s just who Willson is. That’s why he’s fun to play with.’’