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Theo weighs in on trade rumors at CubsCon

Epstein: 'Everything is on the table'; Bryant exits early due to illness
@MLBastian
January 18, 2020

CHICAGO -- It is important to remember that the players who took the stage during Cubs Convention on Friday night, amid the cheers from fans packed into the second-floor ballroom at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, are a part of the team right now. Things could still change before Opening Day.

CHICAGO -- It is important to remember that the players who took the stage during Cubs Convention on Friday night, amid the cheers from fans packed into the second-floor ballroom at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, are a part of the team right now. Things could still change before Opening Day.

Included in the opening ceremonies of the Cubs' annual fan fest was Kris Bryant, who offered fist bumps to the first-rowers but no comments about the trade rumors. Roughly an hour before the festivities began, word spread that Bryant was dealing with the flu and a high fever. That sidelined him for the planned media session.

"Bad timing. I hope he feels better," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "Better now than during the season. Kris is an important member of the team. You've been around too long to take rumors at face value, right?"

It has been all of those trade rumors and talk of budget restraints this offseason that has fueled the frustration of a fan base that saw the Cubs miss the playoffs last year for the first time since 2014. It is why, just four years after the North Siders ended a 108-year drought with a World Series triumph, chairman Tom Ricketts heard some boos during his convention-opening speech.

With winning comes heightened expectations, especially when fans believed this core group was going to bring multiple titles to the city. So while CubsCon is still a time for optimism and celebration, this year's event is also filled with some unrest. Cubs fans want more, and the team has added zero players on Major League contracts this offseason.

Rizzo, Hoyer address state of Cubs' core group

Ask the players, and they say the lack of moves -- or the quiet winter -- is fine by them.

"People want to say 'quiet,'" Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber said. "But if you don't remember too long ago, we were the team that was making all the moves and doing this and doing that. You've got to keep that in perspective, and keep it in perspective of what we have here is still top tier [compared to] a lot of baseball teams.

"You look at a lot of people's track records and you see what they've done in this game, see what we're still capable of. I think that if we were standing here today and had to go out there and go to battle, I would take this team any day."

The season does not start today, though. Cubs pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 11, and the full squad follows suit on Feb. 16 at the club's spring headquarters in Mesa, Ariz. Opening Day is March 26 in Milwaukee. That leaves plenty of time for Chicago to still make moves to impact its 2020 roster in what has been an offseason filled with smaller depth additions.

Most of the marquee free agents are off the board, but the Cubs were never going to play in that market this winter. They were always going to be more active on the trade front, and Epstein said there is still potential for something to happen along those lines. The front office had to first wait out the free-agent dominoes.

"I think we were open about the fact that we were open to talking about all of our guys," Epstein said. "We're trying to compete now and also we're more mindful than we've been in the last few years of trying to ensure a healthy future and a smooth transition away from this group, which is inevitable at some point.

"But we've never said any one player was definitely going to be moved or that we were seeking to move any one player. We're just open that everything is on the table this offseason, but nothing's happened yet -- some would say at all. The moves that we've made have been smaller, complementary-type moves.

"Maybe we're doing an Ali 'rope-a-dope' and there will be some stuff later, or maybe it'll be the type of offseason where we've got to find improvement with the guys that we have."

If the Cubs do stick with mostly the same cast as last year, what needs to change?

"Everybody was being there for the team, but at the same time, for their own numbers," Javier Báez said of last season. "It's not about one player. It's not about me. It's not about anybody. You can pick whoever on the team and it's not about them. It's about the whole team and the whole organization to be on the same page with the same plan."

Báez a Cub for life? 'Hopefully it happens'

Báez was asked what it would be like if someone like Bryant were not a part of that plan come Opening Day.

"He was the MVP a few years ago," Báez said. "Hopefully, we keep Kris here his entire career. I don't know. I really don't know what's going to happen, so I can't really say anything about it. ... If that happens, I don't know what's going to be the reaction of the fans and of the players, to be honest."

Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish said no one on the team wants to see Bryant in another uniform.

"All the players are thinking the same way -- we don't want him to go anywhere," Darvish said. "But it's a business, right? But he's a great person and a great player. I hope he's staying with this team."

On Friday night, Bryant was in a Cubs uniform. His thoughts on the rest of the topics surrounding him will have to wait for another day.

Epstein noted that he plans to meet with Bryant this weekend to discuss everything in person.

"I'm going to keep that between us," Epstein said. "I have all the respect in the world for Kris Bryant. I appreciate everything of what he's done as a Cub. I'm very proud of what he's done as a Cub. I'm proud that we drafted him and developed him. He didn't need much development at all.

"I'm proud to have been alongside him through all these times, and I hope he continues. There's a really good chance that it will."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.