Bryant says he's focused on dominating, not being traded

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant works out Monday in Mesa, Ariz.

    Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant works out Monday in Mesa, Ariz. Associated Press

  • Kris Bryant, here with teammate Anthony Rizzo this week in Mesa, Ariz., said Thursday he's happy he wasn't traded in the off-season and wants to stay with the Cubs.

    Kris Bryant, here with teammate Anthony Rizzo this week in Mesa, Ariz., said Thursday he's happy he wasn't traded in the off-season and wants to stay with the Cubs. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/25/2021 5:44 PM

As much as he tries to stay even-keel, Kris Bryant admitted he was a little frazzled this winter after receiving a text message that read, "Welcome to the Mets."

"I'm like, 'Oh, well, what?' " Bryant said on a Zoom call with reporters Thursday from Mesa, Ariz. "It was a Connecticut number, I don't know who it was."

 

So he called his agent, the agent called Cubs president Jed Hoyer and the rumor was quickly squashed. Hoyer has maintained there were never any serious talks with the Mets about a Bryant trade, despite some brief Twitter hysteria.

"That's the kind of stuff I feel like is nice to know when there's something that's completely false," Bryant said. "Because at the end of the day, we are all human and when you get a text that says something like that, that might mess with me a little bit.

"I've had good conversations with Jed, just good communication and he's letting me know what's going on. I can ask him what's true, what's not true. I've really appreciated that. Great way to start off our relationship in a new role."

So now Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras head into Year 3 of "The end is near." The Cubs don't figure to keep everyone, with Bryant, Rizzo and Baez heading into the final year of their contracts. But who really knows?

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The answer is basically the same as it has been: Play well and good things will happen.

"It seems like the talk every year is like, 'Is this the last hurrah? Is this it?' It is a broken record every single year," Bryant said. "I don't have anything else to add. We are a lot of really good friends here, not just teammates, but really good friends and good people. I just enjoy taking the field and being here alongside these guys every day. I've never taken that for granted and I won't start now."

A sense of urgency could seep in, conceivably, knowing that if the Cubs get off to a poor start in 2021, the housecleaning will happen by July. But Bryant is trying to ignore that sort of talk and appreciates that Hoyer has been giving him straight answers.

"I just think every year it's important to get off to a good start," Bryant said. "No need to make this any bigger than it is. Trade deadlines, guys' last years -- who cares? Every year is the same, we want to get off to a good start, enjoy wins, flush losses and just go out there and play.

"I don't want to put too much on myself, any more pressure. Just every year, I want to go out and dominate. That's just who I've always been and that's what drives me."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If Bryant does dominate this season, it might make for some easier decisions. Last year, the 2016 MVP didn't dominate, hitting a career-low .204 with 4 home runs in 34 games.

At the same time, he hit .282 with 31 home runs in 2019, bouncing back from a season when he missed 60 games with injuries. So there's no reason he can't reach his old form at age 29.

He made some noise Thursday by hitting a home run off Jake Arrieta during a live batting practice session in Mesa.

"It doesn't count, does it? But in my mind, it felt great," Bryant said. "But Jake looked really good out there today, honestly. I'm happy to have him back in a Cubs uniform. It was really cool to see him back with the guys."

Bryant was asked about the pitcher who left. After serving as the ace of the staff, Yu Darvish and his large contract were traded to San Diego, a clear sign that the Cubs were working on a tighter budget than usual.

"I guess I was kind of surprised, kind of sad to see him go because he was really coming into his own here and feeling comfortable and starting to goof around and talk with all of us," Bryant said. "That was really cool to see from Yu. And Victor Caratini too, one of the most underrated bats, players in the game. I think he's going to do great things over there."

What about over here in Chicago? While the Dodgers and Padres have spent big, the Cubs are heading into sort of a half-in, half-out season. They couldn't afford to keep their best pitcher, who knows how many of the World Series nucleus will be around by the end of the summer -- but they do plan to contend, apparently.

"Honestly, I like the fact that we do have some new faces to kind of keep it fresh," Bryant said, referring to guys like Joc Pederson, Trevor Williams and Zach Davies. "I think we do have a great team. Speaking with Jed, too, we had a great conversation, but he's like, 'We're here to compete, we're going to do great things.'

"When you have the guy in charge, he could just be saying that, but I truly believe we're here to win, we're here to compete. That's just the culture of the Chicago Cubs now. Before 2015, it was kind of just hopeful, now it's expected, which is honestly as a baseball player what you want to play for."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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