On Bryant rumors, Epstein says Cubs don't 'have to do anything'
Kris Bryant probably had 18.6 million good reasons to skip meeting the media late Friday afternoon before the 35th annual Cubs Convention got underway at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.
The subject of intense trade rumors throughout the off-season and still awaiting a ruling on his service-time grievance, Bryant finds himself in a difficult position with spring training scheduled to open in just over three weeks.
The Cubs' star third baseman was a no-show Friday, but not for reasons you'd expect.
"It's a bummer, he's got the flu," Cubs president Theo Epstein said. Bryant was able to make it to the stage for opening ceremonies and was greeted with big applause.
"Bad timing," Epstein said. "I hope he feels better, but better now than during the season."
On March 26, the Cubs open the regular season against the Brewers at Milwaukee. It seems fait accompli Bryant is going to be wearing a different uniform by then as Epstein unloads his $18.6 million salary and slashes needed payroll to get under the salary cap.
Then again, maybe not.
"We're not in a position where we have to do anything," Epstein said. "You want to always avoid being put in a corner where you have to make a deal and your back's against the wall and you're going to take any deal that's out there.
"We're not at all in that position. Looking at the longer time horizon of the next two years, I think it would be wise at some point to do something that looks out a little bit more for the long term and a little bit less for the short term. But that doesn't have to happen now. We're not in a position where we have to move anybody."
If Bryant is traded, it won't be until after his grievance is decided. The case has been dragging on throughout the winter, but Epstein is staying patient.
"It's beyond our control," he said. "I think it's important to respect the process. It's a significant case for the industry. There's a lot riding on it. It's important to Kris, obviously, otherwise he wouldn't have filed the grievance. I'm not going sit here and complain about it."
If he wins the case, Bryant is eligible for free agency at the end of this season. If he loses, the 2016 National League MVP is under contractual control for two more years.
"It's hard," shortstop Javier Baez said. "If a player like Kris Bryant is going to get traded, he's one of the best players out there. It's going to be a whole different team without him, but we'll see what happens.
"We'll see if that happens, who's coming, who's not. I think we'll keep Kris here his entire career. If that (trade) happens, I don't know what is going to be the reaction of the fans and of the players."
•The Cubs acquired relief pitcher Casey Sadler in a trade with the Dodgers Friday and reportedly agreed to minor-league contracts with catcher Josh Phegley and lefty reliever Tyler Olson.
Sadler was a combined 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA in 33 games with Los Angeles and Tampa Bay last season.