Report That Giants ‘Not Super Impressed’ by Kris Bryant Sounds Like Gamesmanship

After Kris Bryant experienced the emotional catharsis of finally being traded from the Cubs, some felt he might have found a new long-term home with the team he grew up rooting for as a kid. But could the Giants be saying “Dr. No” to the man agent Scott Boras dubbed the Sean Connery of baseball” or are they engaged in a little espionage?

During an interview on MLB Network Radio’s Power Alley with Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin, Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic poured some water on any hot Bryant-to-the-Giants coals.

“From a Kris Bryant, there’s a Chris Taylor out there that that could be a more cost-effective solution,” Baggarly said of San Francisco’s thinking this offseason. “And to be honest, I think that their evaluations of him — and just my own evaluations of him — were not super impressed. The guy is a really good player. He’s definitely a solidly above-average major leaguer. His swing is very athletic. I don’t know if it’s a swing that’s necessarily gonna age as well as maybe some others that are out there.

“Defensively, I don’t think he’s a plus anywhere on the field. His versatility is certainly huge and absolutely matches what they value as an organization, but third base was rough. He made a lot of bad throws and in the outfield, you know, he didn’t really look super comfortable either in that center or right. So it’s, I would say, it’s probably not super likely that he comes back.”

It does totally make sense that a team worried about a player’s defense would hide him in *checks notes* center field for the entirety of an NLDS elimination game.

Any time a beat writer comes out with very specific comments about a free agent or a player in line for an extension, it’s worth trying to connect the dots on the messaging behind those statements. While the specific talking points (defense and age-related projection of his swing) aren’t unique and could indeed be concerns for a team looking to work on a big contract, it’s impossible to shake the sense that there’s more to it than just a pure assessment.

Something similar took place with Bryant in 2018, when a report came out about him turning down an extension with the Cubs for “well north of $200 million.” Cubs Insider reported at the time that the report wasn’t accurate and Bryant has publicly denied it multiple times, but someone with the team wanted that information out there for some reason.

The timing of this comment immediately after the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, CA raises even more questions about the underlying reason for the information sharing. Were team sources tempering contract offer expectations or laying the groundwork for moving on from a player that had long been on the Giant’s radar before the deal?

Attempting to undermine a player’s goodwill or performance might seem like a strange way to retain their services, but MLB is a business and this kind of gamesmanship is par for the course. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Baggarly’s information isn’t fueled by ulterior motives and that the Giants really aren’t interested in bringing Bryant back.

If that’s the case, Bryant may consider a meeting with the Mets, who have long been after the versatile All-Star even if the fit seems incongruous. Maybe he’ll turn his eyes to the Pacific Northwest, where rumors and expert speculation alike have him ending up. Or perhaps he’ll end up with a team no one expects on a deal no one is projecting.

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