Like the Fast and Furious franchise or an incomplete Yahtzee game, Kris Bryant trade rumors simply won’t die. Even after he arrived at camp still in a Cubs uniform and declared after a meeting with Theo Epstein that he wasn’t going anywhere, they persist. Just a few days ago came a report out of San Diego that the Padres had “recently” declined an offer that would have sent righty Dinelson Lamet and catching prospect Luis Campusano to Chicago for the Cubs’ leadoff hitter.
I don’t know how much time you’re legally allowed to fit under the umbrella of recency, but such a swap certainly doesn’t fit the idea of competing for a World Series. Then again, neither does limiting guaranteed free agent deals to $1 million dollars and seemingly using the $208 million competitive balance tax threshold as a de facto salary cap.
But I digress. Where was I again? Ah yes, the trade rumors…
Even though he’s eliminated Twitter — which he said is the worst thing ever invented — from his life because he’s “not a coward,” Bryant isn’t beyond earshot of the whispers. A friend might send him a screenshot from their own social media account, or maybe a fan who lacks social grace will choose to pop off about something they read just to be a jerk. And let’s face it, the dude is too smart to be oblivious to what’s going on.
Hell, it sounds like he’s very well well aware of exactly how this all works.
“It hasn’t been a distraction at all,” Bryant told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “I mean, Theo keeps asking for the moon for me, which is pretty cool, because I’m not going to get traded then. Keep doing that, Theo. ‘We want the team’s best player and their top two prospects.’ That’s all it’s going to take.”
Some of that crosses beyond firsthand knowledge and into wishful thinking, since Bryant really wants to be able to stay in Chicago and maintain the stability he’s known for five years now. Within a month or so, that will take on a much deeper meaning because he’ll be starting a family. I don’t care how much his heart has been hardened by the business of the game, it’ll still melt when he meets his son.
“Honestly, I think this is what I’ve been put on this earth to do, is to be a dad,” Bryant shared with Marquee Sports Network. “Obviously I play baseball pretty good, but I’m just so excited [for] this new journey with my wife and my family and everybody’s so excited.”
He’ll get to spend some time with family when the Cubs send a split squad to Las Vegas for a weekend series against the Reds. The perfect timing gives Bryant the chance to enjoy a welcome slice of normalcy by accompanying his wife, Jess, to a doctor’s appointment. Given how close they are to the due date, it’s surely a relief for him to be home for a couple of days.
Seriously, this guy’s dad energy is off the charts already. He’s talked about looking to Jon Lester as a role model, not because of how the lefty goes about his business on the field, but for how he is as a father. Knowing that’s his real focus makes it easy to believe that he truly has been able to push the other noise to the side.
“Of course you want to win and I’m always going to play as hard as I can, but I watch everybody else and how they bring their kids in after the games and stuff,” Bryant said. “It’s hard not to picture that.”
Bringing that picture to life in a Cubs uniform will mean staying in Chicago beyond the remainder of his contractual control. I mean, sure, he could just bring the newborn into the clubhouse once or twice this season to get his fix. I’m not going to pretend to know what Bryant is thinking, but something tells me this isn’t just a matter of just showing off his son or checking off some kind of box.
Keep in mind that this is someone who was raised in the game and by the game, or, more accurately, by a father who loved the game and passed that down to his son. Bryant now gets to do the same, even if he’d prefer his kid swings a golf club or strums a guitar. Baby Bryant will have plenty of time to hit the links in Vegas over the winter, but whether he grows up playing Butler National and the blues is pretty much Theo Epstein’s call at this point.
So do the Cubs keep asking or the moon or do they get serious about offering some cheddar? If Epstein is to be taken at his word, we may have an answer by the end of July.