CHICAGO — After the Chicago Cubs selected him with the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, Kris Bryant was asked if he knew anything about the organization.
“I know they haven’t won a World Series in a while, so hopefully I can do all I can to help the Cubs win one,” he replied. “I know it’s a great baseball city, a great team and a lot of history to it. I’m excited.”
Bryant helped deliver the first Cubs championship in most of their fans’ lifetimes, turning in an MVP season in 2016 and making the final play of the epic Game 7 victory in the World Series. That year forever altered expectations on the North Side while contributing to the increased revenue streams that made the team a cash machine for the Ricketts family.
Bryant, Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo on Friday began the final homestand before the July 30 trade deadline in a state of flux, waiting to learn whether they’ll be dealt to a contender so the Cubs can start rebuilding for their next window of opportunity.
It was fitting then, in the first inning of Friday’s 8-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, that the Big 3 celebrated together at home plate after Báez’s three-run home run into the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field.
The only thing missing was a selfie to mark the occasion.
It’s hard not to be nostalgic this week after Cubs President Jed Hoyer’s “eye on the future” declaration July 8 that fueled the rumor mill. Even if the Cubs wanted to pretend it was just another day at the ballpark, some fans would not let them.
On a sweltering afternoon with 34,059 in the park, a few dozen fans sitting in the same section as Chairman Tom Ricketts decided to let him know what they thought about the possibility of Bryant no longer wearing a Cubs uniform.
They all donned Bryant jerseys and gave him a standing ovation when he strolled to the plate in the first inning.
Cubs fan Kevin Thompson said he bought about 40 Bryant jerseys to hand out to people in the section to “send a message” to Ricketts to keep Bryant. It probably would’ve been cheaper to write it down, walk over to Ricketts and hand it to him, but money was no object.
Ricketts said last month the decision on which players to re-sign or trade is Hoyer’s to make, though Ricketts obviously has final say on the payroll. Hoyer has said he has to put personal feelings aside and do what’s best for the Cubs, which probably means choosing between Bryant and Báez.
Manager David Ross conceded that the possibility this is the end of the road could be on some of his players’ minds.
“What I’d say is it’s really nice to be home in a situation where there are a lot of uncertainties,” he said. “And we should appreciate what we have here because this place is a really special place. I know what it’s like to not be able to come and play here on a regular basis, and I missed it as soon as I didn’t get to do it.
“We’re really lucky to play in the environment we are (in). With the uncertainty, I would take every moment and appreciate the things we all, not just players, take for granted.”
Whether Bryant was soaking it in Friday was unknown, as he has gone under the Cone of Silence since being mic’d up at the All-Star Game and getting asked about the trade speculation by Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck. He appears to be the most likely of the Big 3 to be moved, perhaps to the New York Mets or San Francisco Giants, who could use his bat in their lineups.
True or not, the perception remains that the Cubs would be unable to sign Bryant once he hits free agency this fall, leaving them to focus on re-signing Báez. Unlike the other two stars, Rizzo is having a down season and might have to settle for less than he desired, so he’ll probably be back.
Bryant returned to the lineup Friday after missing the last two starts in St. Louis and being removed from Tuesday’s game with what Ross described as “heavy legs.” The Cubs need him to be relatively healthy for the next week to get some value in return for what likely would be a two-month rental.
Bryant gave Hoyer a scare in the third inning while sliding into catcher Daulton Varsho on Báez’s fielder’s-choice grounder, but he was unharmed on the play. Ditto Rizzo, who slipped and fell while scoring on a wild pitch later in the inning.
The Cubs had no problem handling the 30-69 Diamondbacks, a team headed in the wrong direction with no sign of recovering soon. Zach Davies, also available for the right price, pitched well for five-plus innings. Catcher Robinson Chirinos, who hit two home runs while filling in for Willson Contreras, also has some trade value, though he just got here.
Davies has been traded three times and acknowledged “it could happen” again, though he’s not worried about it.
“Things could change,” Davies said. “It could go in a different direction where we get really, really hot.”
Maybe, but some Cubs players might want to look around and smell the ivy during this homestand, which could be their last at Wrigley.