CHICAGO — The text appeared on Kris Bryant’s phone from an unknown Connecticut number.
“Welcome to the Mets.”
The Chicago Cubs third baseman didn’t recognize the number, prompting a call to his agent Scott Boras, who spoke with Cubs President Jed Hoyer and was told nothing was going on. The sequence followed a rumor circulating in early February indicating trade talks had resumed between the Cubs and New York Mets involving Bryant.
Bryant is no stranger to trade rumors, having dealt with external noise the past three offseasons. In the last few months alone, Bryant has been connected to the Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Mets. The speculation surrounding his future won’t dissipate in the coming months unless he signs a contract extension before reaching free agency at the end of the season.
One element of uncertainty that has changed for Bryant: the transparency from the Cubs’ front office since Hoyer took over as president of baseball operations in November.
“Honestly, I’ve really appreciated that and never had that type of security or communication,” Bryant said Thursday. “So that was met very well, and I really appreciate that from (Hoyer) and I let him know that we’re on great terms.
“That’s the kind of stuff that I feel like is nice to know when there’s something that’s completely false. Because 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 messes with me a little bit. But I’ve been have been answering these questions for three years now. ... I think I’m in a really good place in terms of dealing with that stuff now and there’s really nothing else for me to say.”
Bryant’s comment echoes what Hoyer said two weeks ago about his desire to foster an open dialogue with players. Because of that honesty and trust, Bryant was not surprised by how the Cubs’ offseason transpired nor ultimately remaining in Chicago.
“He’s letting me know what’s going on,” Bryant said. “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.
“It really doesn’t bother me much anymore because it’s just nice to know, when there’s all these reports and stuff out there that say one thing and then you actually hear it from the actual person that has the ability to trade you that none of it’s true and there’s been no substantial anything going on it’s, like, OK. So it’s going to be hard for me to believe anything out there from now on. Because I understand a lot of people have to talk and just throw stuff out there, but Jed told me that is not true, really makes me feel good. And I’m here to help the Cubs win and do what I’ve been doing here for the last six years.”
Bryant, 29, is coming off a forgettable 2020 in which he battled injuries — a sprained finger, wrist injury and an oblique issue — and put up the worst numbers of his career. Bryant said last year was “pretty easy” to forget. Being limited to 34 games helps downplay an unsightly .206 average, .293 on-base percentage, .644 OPS, four homers and 11 RBIs.
Manager David Ross isn’t putting much stock into Bryant’s performance, either. He points to the natural ups and downs hitters endure during a season, even when they finish with great numbers.
Ross had been encouraged by how Bryant looked in box against the White Sox in the final two games of the season. For the first time in a while, Bryant looked like his old self and the results (single, two home runs, six RBIs) supported the eye test. Taking good swings and ending 2020 on a high note helped Bryant believe he found the groove he’d been searching for.
“I mean, I think if we played more games, maybe I would have figured it out. Who knows?” Bryant said. " ... Every year I want to go out there and dominate. That’s just who I’ve always been. That’s what drives me.”
Bryant didn’t sound stressed about his contract situation. He said he wants to approach the season as if it were any other, with no added pressure on himself just because he’s nine months from free agency.
He will listen if the Cubs want to discuss a contract extension, however.
“I’ve always said I’ve been open and willing to hear whatever Jed now has to say and would take it with open arms and consider everything that is thrown my way,” Bryant said. “I think I’ve communicated that well with them. So they know where I stand. They know what I think.”(c)2021 the Chicago Tribune Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.