‘I’m just Kris’: Bryant won’t opt out and hopes to stay with Cubs long term
Let’s get this out of the way first:
Kris Bryant is not going to opt out of the 2020 MLB season.
He said as much Monday in a Zoom press conference with Chicago media. He would like to see a better execution with the league’s safety protocols — especially with a newborn baby at home — but he is all in for the season.
“Could you imagine me opting out?” Bryant said. “I just couldn’t do that. I’m gonna do everything I can to be safe and healthy and lead by example and encourage people to do the right thing, but if there’s a baseball a season, I want to be out there.”
Bryant said he considered opting out and acknowledged that he understands why other players around the game are weighing their options, mentioning how Yankees ace Gerrit Cole just had a baby and Angels superstar Mike Trout is set to become a father soon.
Bryant has been cautious, wearing a mask off the field and going to and from drills. He’s also been staying away from teammates as much as possible.
He came into summer camp feeling good and strong — “dad strength,” he joked — and is looking to build off a 2019 season in which he put up 31 homers, a .903 OPS and 4.8 WAR in 147 games while dealing with a lingering knee issue for most of the second half.
As for the future, Bryant is not trying to get too caught up thinking about what comes next — he’s set to become a free agent after 2021 — but he admitted the pandemic and everything that has gone on the last few months has made him more open to an extension with the Cubs.
“I would say yeah,” Bryant said. “Especially when you have a kid, you look at things differently. I feel like I’m a lot more calm, although I do appear calm always. Things that really mattered to me before don’t matter to me as much. You value people in your life that bring value to you. And certainly this organization has brought value to me in my life and hopefully I’ve returned the favor.
“But yeah, you want to be around people that want you and care for you and I’ve certainly felt that being a Chicago Cub.”
Bryant’s attitude about extensions or possible trades has stayed the same: If it happens, it happens.
He said he’s still open to listening to any extension talks from the Cubs, but he also understands now is not necessarily the time to be focused on 2021 problems or a big contract when so many people around the world find their jobs or health at risk due to the pandemic.
“I’m trying to make it clear that I really love it here and I love playing here and I love everything about this city and the people and the people in this clubhouse and all around,” Bryant said. “I’ve never not wanted to be here, regardless of whatever has happened in the past or whatever people have perceived about my situation or based on just because I have a super powered agent or this and that.
“I’m just Kris. I like playing here. I like playing baseball. I like running hard to first. I like giving my best at-bat out there and I just hope people can appreciate that.”