CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant arrived at Wrigley Field last week with an altered perspective on his priorities. The Cubs' third baseman is a new father, and he had plenty of time over the past several months to reflect on the importance of family, comfort and safety in the midst of a global pandemic.
Things like trade rumors and thoughts about a contract extension take a back seat when there are more important issues facing the country and world. In a Zoom discussion with reporters this week, Bryant went as far as saying it felt "insensitive" to delve into those topics when there are people facing more pressing struggles.
So, yes, Bryant's perspective has changed even since Spring Training.
"You look at things differently," Bryant said. "Just 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 and 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."
That last comment is also why these topics will not just disappear.
Bryant, who turned 28 in January, is one in a group of core players who could reach free agency after the 2021 season. Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are three others, with catcher Willson Contreras following suit after '22. That creates a situation where Chicago must weigh extending the core against planning for the future.
Before the sports world took an extended pause due to the COVID-19 crisis in March, the Cubs' players already felt that a fast start was going to be critical this season to potentially avoid trades stripping some of the core at the July 31 Deadline. Now, the Trade Deadline has been moved to Aug. 31, and it remains to be seen how teams will approach that in this 60-game season.
"I would like it not to be a concern," Bryant said. "I would like to think that I wouldn't be shipped out in the middle of a pandemic."
That statement gets to the heart of another issue organizations are facing. Never mind the complicated nature of such an abbreviated campaign, there are also ethical considerations when thinking about transactions that move players around the country during this health crisis. That is not limited to the blockbuster moves, either.
"You're going to have to option players out or send players to different places," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "There's no question that that's an uncomfortable thing to think about from our perspective, and obviously Kris is voicing that it's uncomfortable from a player perspective.
"That's something that we have to talk through, but there's going to be transactions this year. There's sort of no way to avoid that, whether they be big or small."
Hoyer also agreed with Bryant that now was not the time to even think about extension talks or the Trade Deadline.
"That's really not where our mind is," Hoyer said. "We want this to be effective, for this club to get off on the right foot. That's really where our mindset is, and I think given the things we're dealing with on a day-to-day basis, that's not something that we're discussing."
Bryant reiterated once again that he would love to remain with the Cubs, and that he's "open to hearing anything and everything" the team has to say on that front.
"I really love it here and I love playing here," Bryant said. "And I love everything about this city and the people and the people in this clubhouse and all around. I’ve never not wanted to be here, regardless of whatever has happened in the past, or whatever people have perceived about my situation."
Bryant would also love nothing more than to keep the core of the 2016 World Series championship team together for as long as possible.
"It would be really cool to just have everybody stay here and play together and see what we've got," Bryant said. "And when we're old and fat and we're tired, we're out of here. That'd be awesome. But who knows? It might not happen that way.
"We're just really trying to enjoy the time, enjoying the craziness of the situation that we’re in. And enjoying each other from maybe a little further away with masks on."