There have never been more than rumors, reports, and talks behind the scenes on the Kris Bryant trade stuff – which is to say, a trade has never actually happened. But the smoke this offseason seemed a lot thicker than ever before, and it did seem at one point, based on multiple reports and chatter around the industry, that a trade to the Mets, specifically, could be happening.
How much of that was total BS, and how much was a situation where talks actually had advanced? Well, you aren’t going to get a straight answer from any executives involved (because it’s strongly in their interests to stay mum), but I did think this reveal from Bryant today was pretty wild:
Kris Bryant said he received a text over the offseason that said "Welcome to the Mets." He called his agent and Hoyer, and quickly found out that it wasn't true. That was an example he gave about the open lines of communication he currently has with Cubs' front office.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 25, 2021
Kris Bryant said he got a text this offseason that said 'welcome to the Mets' from a Connecticut number but he didn't know who it was from. So he called his agent to make sure he wasn't traded.
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) February 25, 2021
Connecticut – home of ESPN! – is not New York, mind you, and it’s weird that some rando would have Kris Bryant’s phone number. So that was either someone connected to the Mets who jumped the gun, or it was just some person out there who decided to have fun with Bryant’s number.
As we’ve discussed before about the human side of trade rumors, can you imagine being Bryant in that moment? That had to suck. Glad he was able to get it clarified quickly.
As for things that are more real, there’s the obligatory “maybe an extension can happen this time!” stuff that we see each Spring Training. This is not new, nor is it anything different than what you’d expect for him to say right now. But Kris Bryant isn’t running away from it: he still says he’s open to an extension with the Cubs.
Kris Bryant said he's definitely willing to listen to what Jed Hoyer has to say regarding a contract extension this spring. #Cubs
— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) February 25, 2021
Kris Bryant on contract extension talks during camp: "I've always said I've been open and willing to hear what (the Cubs) say and take it with open arms and consider everything that's thrown my way. I think I've communicated that to them."
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) February 25, 2021
After yet another offseason of rumors, all of which were predicated on the notion that this was “Kris Bryant’s final year with the Cubs,” you can understand why everyone is skeptical of an extension here. It’s just hard to imagine the team and the player meeting on a price tag that makes sense for both sides, especially after a 2020 season that leaves it all the more up in the air what the future holds for the 29-year-old third baseman.
Bryant has already made a lot of money in his career. Bryant has the upside of an MVP. Bryant cares about moving the ball forward for future players. It’s almost impossible to see him doing anything BUT playing the year out, betting on himself, and then pushing in to max out his next contract in free agency. It might be the best approach for him.
If you’re the Cubs, of course you’d love to retain Bryant for the next X years on a reasonable contract, knowing you’ve got third base and the middle of the order locked down (when there definitely isn’t an obvious replacement waiting in the wings!). But if Bryant would still want a Rendon-Arenado-level contract (i.e., free agent prices) in order to forgo free agency? The team just couldn’t justify that on the information and projections currently available, especially when the upcoming free agent class figures to be loaded. If you’re paying free agent prices anyway, then you might as well consider exploring free agency.
For all those reasons, we’ve just never figured an extension was plausible, let alone likely. Maybe we’ll be shocked. It would be nice.