Bryant looks to bring veteran presence to upstart Rox

March 18th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Challenge Kris Bryant. Maybe put a reward out there. He’ll take you up on it.

The Rockies officially announced Bryant’s seven-year, $182 million deal Friday, and Bryant, 30, answered the question that had the baseball -- and Twitter -- universe scratching their collective heads.

Why does a player who has been to the postseason in six of his seven seasons commit long-term to a franchise that has done so five times since it began play in 1993?

“I’m always up for a challenge, in anything,” Bryant said. “You can ask my family and wife. Growing up, I wanted to make straight A’s because my grandparents gave me $100 every third report card. When I hit home runs, they gave me $20. I’ve always had that desire and passion in me to succeed.

“It is attractive, like, Chicago, bringing a championship there. They’d lost for a long time, and now it’s a winning culture. I really hope to bring that here.”

The contention is that the Rockies have always wanted Bryant. Current general manager -- but then-Draft leader -- Bill Schmidt was poised to take Bryant third overall out of the University of San Diego in 2013 before the Cubs swooped in. Owner Dick Monfort was keen to acquire Bryant from Chicago when then-Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado’s unhappiness with the front office flamed.

It turns out feelings between Colorado and Bryant were mutual. Bryant put in reciprocal study, as his agent, Scott Boras, loquaciously explained:

“He’s a different Major Leaguer in this sense: He has an academic coefficient that few have, but he also has something that he knows who he is; he knows what he wants to do,” Boras said.

About that academic coefficient …

“K.B. came to me and goes, ‘When I was with the Cubs, what made us win? What was the diagnostic? Because no one expected the Cubs to win,’” Boras said. “It’s the acquisition of a veteran. There’s the core pitcher. The core position player. And he had the influence of [Ben] Zobrist, who showed him what to do and how to do it. He saw the power of that.”

Bryant studied the emerging players in the Rockies' lineup, and felt players were similar to some Cubs when they entered competitive years. He also has respect for the starting pitching staff, which Colorado still believes is the strength of the team. Bryant joins righty starting pitcher Chad Kuhl, shortstop José Iglesias and reliever Alex Colomé -- all on one-year contracts -- as veterans hoping to jump-start a team that hasn’t been to the postseason since 2018.

The Cubs descended into losing last season before trading Bryant to the Giants -- whom he helped end the Dodgers’ eight-year clasp on the National League West title.

“They’re so often overlooked in terms of the players they have, the pitching staff, the velocities that they’re running out of the bullpen,” Bryant said of his new teammates. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a comfortable at-bat when I’ve faced Colorado.

“I want to be that veteran presence for the guys here. Hopefully, they can lean on me in big games.”

Schmidt said all Bryant has to be is himself.

“Be a good teammate, first and foremost; be one of the guys,” Schmidt said. “The other stuff will emerge over time.”

Manager Bud Black spoke to Bryant at last summer’s All-Star Game, when Bryant was in the contest for the fourth time and Black was part of the NL staff. He also canvased Bryant’s former managers and coaches.

“I could just tell, instinctively, from a young player when he first got to the big leagues, that he’s the type of player I’d love to have on my team,” Black said.

A Rockies team that clearly needed a big bat went out and signed one. Some public reaction suggests they should be on the defensive because several key offensive players are gone -- Arenado (and a big cash payment) to the Cardinals before last season, DJ LeMahieu to the Yankees as a free agent after the 2018 season and Trevor Story, looking for a team after spurning Colorado's offers.

It may not show up in projected win totals, but a galvanization is happening at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

And there is one key difference between Bryant and players who either forced a trade or left as free agents.

“You’re not here because someone chose you; you’re here because you chose them,” Boras said.