Kris Bryant has had a pretty interesting offseason, what with winning the Rookie of the Year, getting engaged, and swimming with sharks in Hawaii. Now he’s back in Cubbie blue and looking to improve on one of the best rookie seasons in history. For the most part, Bryant’s familiar aw-shucks demeanor belied much of import as the baseball axioms rolled along in response to Matt Yallof’s questions. But check out what he says right around the 2:16 mark (tip o’ the cap to David N. Wilson for pointing this out)…
“[Heyward and Zobrist] kinda fills that hole with, uh, Dexter not being here…right now, at least,” Bryant said, almost laughing as he tossed out the qualifier at the end.
Hmm, did the precocious third baseman just drop some inside dope about the Cubs’ plans to bring one of last year’s big contributors back into the fold? It sure seemed re-signing Fowler was a lost cause, what with him turning down the qualifying offer and all. And then there’s the recent news that he’s nearing a deal with Baltimore. Then again, Buster Olney had said a few weeks back that he could see Fowler waving the white flag and coming back on the cheap.
So it’s easy to sort of connect dots and speculate on things, but I don’t really believe this is a sign of anything to come. First, there’s the coy smile Bryant flashes right after he makes that statement. It’s nigh imperceptible since he grins pretty much all the time anyway, but there was a flash of deviousness I don’t often detect. More smirk than smile, I took this as Bryant having a little fun and maybe imagining some silly blogger running with it and rushing to put up an article.
There’s also the idea that this being legit means the guys on the team are all being made aware of the machinations of the front office and that they’d subsequently be dropping hints like this to MLB Network reporters. I suppose this could be some wink-wink, nudge-nudgery okay’d by Epstein and Co., though I’m more inclined to think the sophomore slugger just baited the hook and threw it out in the hopes that he’d get a nibble. Heck, maybe there were teammates around and he was pulling a little inside joke with them.
My skepticism is further buoyed by the fact that I have a strong desire to be right about the Cubs not bringing Fowler back. Okay, not really, but I’ve been pretty outspoken in my belief that there’s room in neither the budget nor the lineup for him at this point.
Regardless, it’s just nice to have live reports from the ballpark again. Also, I really want one of those Cubs Spring Training caps, particularly now that I see they have the NL logo kind of embossed or watermarked on the right side. It’s not that I have a deep affinity for the league logo, mind you, just that it’s a cool little touch. So feel free to buy me one as a tribute for being your 5th-favorite blogger.
The Cubs won 103 games and the NL Central with Dexter Fowler in center, so I was only slightly off in my belief that he wasn’t coming back. Of course, Bryant didn’t know anything at the time, and the players believed up until the very moment he walked onto the field in Mesa that Fowler had signed with the Orioles. It’s hard to believe given what a big deal this was at the time, but I’d almost entirely forgotten about the whole deal until recently.