Kris Bryant on Cubs Future: ‘It’s All up in the Air’

More than any other aspect of Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities, the spectacle of the Home Run Derby really brings out the kid in nearly everyone involved. It’s a full-on family affair even for those who aren’t participating, like Kris Bryant having his toddler son Kyler on his lap to watch the fireworks. All things considered, it might have been more fun for Bryant than his last father-son experience at the Derby back in 2015.

Mike Bryant may be the Sage of the Cage, but he’s no Dave Jauss when it comes to pumping BP fastballs even Ángel Hernández would have to agree were all strikes. In any case, KB and KB were having a great time next to Freddie and Charlie Freeman watching other sluggers cranking non-humidor balls into the Denver sky.

As for the media portion of the event, well, that was perhaps a little less fun for Bryant. Trade rumors have dogged him for years, but the pending expiration of his rookie deal and the Cubs’ 11-game losing streak have placed fresh bones in his pockets and smeared his pants with marrow. So with the trade deadline less than three weeks away, you knew he was going to be asked again about his future with the Cubs.

“I don’t think like that at all,” Bryant told members of the media. “But it could happen, that I could be here for two days, two months, two years, 10 years. It’s all up in the air.”

The four-time All-Star was actually well past his specified availability and had chosen to stick around to answer questions from those reporters who still had them. Whether or not he’ll remain with the Cubs beyond his originally slated time is something he can’t answer, though he’s stated time and time again that he loves it in Chicago and would love to remain with the organization that made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2013.

That should not be confused with the Pirates’ 13th round pick this year, Owen Sharts.

Toilet humor aside, Bryant has done everything asked of his during his tenure on the North Side and his versatility may make him as valuable to another team as he has been to the Cubs. Though many tend to forget the 2016 campaign in which the Cubs won the World Series, their third baseman was actually considered to be the most valuable player in the National League.

“If [a trade] does happen,” Bryant said, “whatever team I do go to will get a guy that’s going to go out there and give it all he’s got and play wherever they need me to play.”

Though everyone from industry talking heads to fans of all teams believe a Bryant trade is fait accompli, there really is still a chance the Cubs hold onto him. Maybe that’s with an extension or even just the remainder of the year, but this idea that the Cubs absolutely must get something in return for him rather than just letting him walk isn’t as binary as people want to make it.

The biggest complicating factor in trading Bryant and any number of other coveted players isn’t necessarily being forced to move them for pennies on the dollar. I mean, that’s certainly part of it, but you have to remember that the Cubs’ finite organizational space is already being stressed by the draft and the contraction of the minor league system.

It would be one thing to get a couple handfuls of lottery tickets in exchange for veterans you can’t or won’t extend into the future, but the addition of multiple prospects is trickier than that. Specifically, adding those new players means parting with those already in the system in order. So the value of any trade has to be judged not only in what the Cubs are getting in exchange for a big leaguer, but in how much better their new prospects are than those they’re replacing.

That could mean having to move low-level prospects in deals for the sake of balancing the scales or it could simply force the organization to get really cold-blooded with midseason cuts. And while I know that’s something a lot of people who don’t have to make those decisions are probably fine with, it’s still not as binary as removing emotion from the equation.

Development, as they say, is not linear and it’s very difficult to discern at a relatively early stage which players truly have it and which don’t. So given the likelihood that the Cubs are either targeting or will be offered players in the lower levels of the minors whose true talent may yet be nascent, projecting value several years into the future is the furthest thing in the world from an exact science.

I’ve maintained for quite a while now that the value the Cubs would get from trading Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, or Javier Báez might make moving them a moot point. That’s exactly what Jesse Rogers told ESPN 1000’s Waddle & Silvy Tuesday.

“This is based on the last few days of being here and talking to people in the game,” Rogers said, per transcription from Bleacher Nation’s Brett Taylor. “It’s not gonna be that easy to get back what Jed Hoyer wants [for] the position players. My new prediction is: Báez, Rizzo, and Bryant are on this team on August 1.”

Think of it like a 3-for-1 deal in fantasy baseball that’s based purely on volume rather than balance and need. Sure, the Cubs might actually come away with younger players who can eventually help at the MLB level. But what about how much they’re losing on the field, at the box office, and in merchandise sales?

You can’t agree with ownership’s claims about biblical losses and how money doesn’t buy championships and then brush aside the very real financial implications of stripping the roster for parts. I guess we’ll find out soon enough what direction the Cubs are going to take.

“Whenever my time is done playing for the Cubs, whether I retire here or not, I certainly hope to go out representing who I am and just a good person and keep my head high and realizing, whether it’s one World Series or four or five more, whatever we did here was special,” Bryant told reporters. “And when I’m done playing this game, I can look back on however long I spent in this uniform and be very proud of it.”

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