With the Cubs selling off established players on the big league roster, Kris Bryant is one of the game’s most obvious trade candidates. The 29-year-old is slated to hit free agency this winter, and past extension discussions with the Cubs haven’t resulted in a deal.
Even if Bryant does wind up changing uniforms in the next few days, he’d remain open to returning to the North Side via free agency. “Oh yeah, absolutely,” Bryant replied when asked if he’d be willing to sign with the Cubs this winter if they trade him midseason (via Patrick Mooney of the Athletic). “Like I’ve said, I love this place. It’s all I’ve known. The familiarity of being here and this city and the people make it a lot easier to say, ‘Yeah, of course, I’d love to play here.”
That’s not to say such a situation is likely. The Cubs haven’t spent at particularly high levels in free agency over the past few seasons, and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has previously spoken about there being inevitable turnover on the roster in 2022 and beyond. Bryant also didn’t give any indication he’d take any sort of discount to return to Chicago.
Nevertheless, it’s at least a bit notable the former NL MVP would be happy to return to the Cubs after being traded if that situation happened to present itself. Bryant’s willingness to stay in Chicago beyond his initial window of team control has been the subject of some speculation since the Cubs held him in the minors to open the 2015 season in order to gain an extra year of control over his services. Bryant’s camp filed a grievance (which he ultimately lost), although the four-time All-Star has perennially maintained that situation would not preclude him from signing a long-term deal with the Cubs.
It remains to be seen where Bryant will end up for the season’s final couple months, although it seems a near certainty he’ll be traded. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported this morning that the Rays had had “preliminary discussions” about a potential Bryant acquisition.