Bryant arrives: 'I feel unbelievably wanted'

August 1st, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- wasn’t sure what to believe as he heard his name tossed around in trade rumors in recent weeks, but one team quickly shot to the top of his list of preferred destinations: the Giants.

Three minutes before Friday’s 1 p.m. PT Trade Deadline, Bryant got his wish. As he stood in the visitor’s dugout at Nationals Park, Bryant received a phone call from Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, who informed him that he’d been traded to the Giants in exchange for outfielder Alexander Canario and right-hander Caleb Kilian.

It was an emotional moment for Bryant, who spent the first seven seasons of his career in Chicago and won the 2016 National League MVP after leading the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years. But he also saw the move as a sign that his journey was beginning to come full circle.

A native of Las Vegas, Bryant grew up a huge Barry Bonds fan and told his wife, Jessica, that he had a sense that he would find himself playing for the Giants at some point in his career. He finally got that opportunity on Sunday, batting second and starting at third base against the Astros in his San Francisco debut. It didn’t take long for him to make a good impression, as he blasted a solo shot in his second at-bat of the 5-3 Giants win to join former Cubs teammates Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez in homering in their first game with their new clubs.

“Just going through the Trade Deadline and hearing rumors, you don’t know what’s true and what’s not,” Bryant said. “And then you hear a team like the Giants, and you’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s a team that I want to play for. That’s a team that I want to win a championship with, that I want to form relationships with.’ I just want to be here and help this team and do all I can. Going from one historic franchise to another, I feel super grateful. I don’t know why I deserve this, but it’s been really cool to experience this so far.”

Bonds was Bryant’s favorite player as a kid, and he said he received a baseball autographed by the home run king as a birthday present when he was seven or eight years old. Bryant’s mom bought the gift after he unsuccessfully tried to get an autograph from Bonds at a Giants-Padres game at Qualcomm Stadium during a family vacation to San Diego.

“I still have the autograph that my mom went and bought at the mall,” Bryant said. “It’s in my room that’s in her house. The autograph is fading a little bit. Hopefully I run into him and he can do me another one.”

Bryant wore No. 25 as an homage to Bonds throughout his childhood, but he’ll wear No. 23 with the first-place Giants, who are thrilled to add Bryant’s versatile bat to their lineup as they aim to continue their surprise playoff push this summer. Bryant already knows a few players on the Giants’ current roster, including Aaron Sanchez, Kevin Gausman and Brandon Crawford, and he also has familiarity with San Francisco general manager Scott Harris, who previously worked in the Cubs’ front office.

“I feel like it’s just full of a bunch of grinders that are ready to do anything to win,” Bryant said. “It seems like there’s no ego involved at all. I think that speaks to a lot of the older guys here that are showing the younger guys how to play the game and how to win. You have guys who have won multiple World Series championships here. They know what they’re doing.”

Bryant’s defensive versatility will allow him to play all over the field for the Giants, but he could see most of his initial time at third base while Evan Longoria continues to rehab a shoulder injury. Bryant is due to hit free agency this offseason, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of staying with the Giants beyond 2021.

“It’s definitely enticing,” Bryant said. “It’s a spot that is close to home. I was talking to my wife when [the deal] happened. We both thought that I would always end up here somehow, someway. It ended up being a trade. But yeah, so far, so good. Everything has been super professional. It’s such a classy organization. Anybody who has reached out to me so far, I’ve been absolutely blown away. I feel unbelievably wanted, and it’s just such an amazing feeling.”