I’m going to call it now: Kris Bryant will return to Wrigley Field even after the Cubs traded him away at the deadline. Of course, it’ll be as a Giant when San Francisco comes to Wrigley on September 10. He’ll be back in future seasons as well, though it almost certainly won’t be in a Cubs uniform as the team continues to distance itself from the glory days of 2016.
Far too many people feel it had to happen this way, that a seismic shift away from a trio of players unwilling to sign extensions was the only option for Jed Hoyer and the Cubs. Except that’s not the case at all. Hoyer could have gotten something done with one or more of those players before they passed the point of no return, supplementing them with role players that better balanced the roster.
The president of baseball operations told ESPN 1000 he put forth a strong effort to retain Bryant, Javier Báez, and Anthony Rizzo, but both common sense and subsequent responses say otherwise. While it’s understandable that a frantic period leading up to the trade deadline left Hoyer’s nerves frayed and jangling, there’s a difference between being raw and being flat-out dishonest.
”The only thing I will say is that, while frustrating, I put my head on the pillow every night knowing we put our best foot forward,” Hoyer said. “The extensions we offered these guys will hold up exceptionally well, historically they’ll hold up exceptionally well against the open market. I don’t know why guys didn’t want to sign. I don’t know why guys didn’t want to even counteroffer, oftentimes. I don’t know.”
The issue isn’t that those players didn’t want to sign, it’s that they didn’t want to sign for what was being offered. If, that is, offers were really even out there in the first place.
“[I]t comes down to a business,” Rizzo said when asked about his former boss’s statements. “You want your cake and you want to eat it, too. That’s just how it seemed. I think it can all speak for itself that there’s a common denominator that no one signed.”
Rizzo indicated money, or lack thereof, was at the heart of the matter, but Bryant refuted Hoyer’s claims and said he hadn’t talked turkey with the front office for several years. That’s the same thing he’s been saying since a report that he’d been offered an extension of “well north of $200 million,” which Cubs Insider reported at the time was not accurate.
While repeating that he has no hard feelings in the wake of his departure, saying the good will always outweigh the bad, Bryant diplomatically took issue with Hoyer’s depiction of things.
“Well, in his mind, he’s going to be right, and then maybe in ours, he will be wrong,” Bryant told media members in Milwaukee prior to Friday’s game. “And it’s OK to disagree and then you just move on from there.”
The lack of direct communication wasn’t just a recent development, either, it actually stretched back several years.
“I kind of felt like it was always out there, like, ‘Hey, we’re constantly trying to get an extension done and stuff like that,” Bryant added. “And in reality that didn’t happen. There were conversations after 2016 and then after that, it was like, nothing. I was always open to hearing, and I’ve always said that. But there was just wasn’t anything after that.”
The above-mentioned report, which probably did more than anything else to damage Bryant’s reputation with a segment of Cubs fans who never appreciated him, first surfaced in late 2018. But the offer at its core was already well in the past by then and was really never more than a hypothetical framework for a deal inflated by options and escalators. It also lacked a no-trade clause, something Bryant wanted and the Cubs front office opposed on principle.
So you can imagine how Bryant was somewhat surprised to hear about the report while getting ready to tee off with his dad at a golf course in his hometown of Las Vegas.
As Jon Greenberg noted in his piece for The Athletic, it’s likely Hoyer and Theo Epstein did have some manner of ongoing dialogue with Scott Boras over the last few years. Those conversations obviously failed to move beyond the exploratory stage and apparently never included Bryant himself despite the All-Star’s repeated claims that he’d love to listen to offers.
Look, it’s silly to expect a team executive in any sport to be completely transparent when speaking publicly. However, it tastes like Hoyer tried to pass a shit sandwich off as a hamburger and assumed no one would notice. With a rebuild now on the menu, fans had better hope he’s using better ingredients and working from a different recipe moving forward. For what it’s worth, he has said that will be the case (sans my analogy).
As for Bryant and the others who are now showing out for different teams, you have to imagine the relief of no longer dealing with rumors and unrealistic expectations will make the next two months far more enjoyable. And if the Cubs do end up getting back to something approaching what we saw from 2015-17, it’ll be a helluva lot easier to forget any of the less savory aspects of the last few years or the way the foundation of the team was parted out and sold off.
Based on the reaction to some of my pieces over the last week and beyond, a lot of you are already there. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to check in on Frank Schwindel, Andrew Romine, and Johneshwy Fargas.