Kris Bryant has a long-term dream of finishing his career with the Cubs, but in the short term he’s focused on rebounding convincingly after an injury-plagued 2018 season.
And the early indications are that the left shoulder discomfort that sidelined him for 50 games and zapped much of his power last season has vanished, allowing him to return with his patented uppercut swing with a one-handed finish.
“I’ve been really good at focusing on the season at hand and not getting too ahead of myself,” Bryant said Tuesday. “When you get too ahead of yourself, it affects your performance and thoughts.
“I don’t want to get there. It would be a disservice to everybody here and the fans if I’m starting to think about my whole future. I want to focus on winning this year because last year didn’t go the way we wanted to. I want to do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“I’m 100 percent here this season, and that’s all that matters to me.”
Bryant spoke minutes after learning that perennial All-Star outfielder Mike Trout agreed to a 12-year, $426.5 million contract with the Angels.
Bryant, 27, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, remains three seasons away from free agency. President Theo Epstein has said throughout the spring that he wants to see how the team fares before assessing long-term extensions for younger players, though the front office has initiated preliminary talks during past springs.
The deals for Trout, who had two years left on his previous contract, and Nolan Arenado, who signed an eight-year, $260 million contract with the Rockies one year before from free agency, left Bryant with an amusing observation.
“If everyone keeps signing extensions, there will be no free agents,” Bryant quipped. “If I’m the only one, more teams will want me.”
Bryant will earn $12.9 million this season. Obviously, money will be the factor in his future, but he said he hopes to stay with the Cubs.
“Anytime you can show a loyalty to the team that drafted you and you came up with and established relationships with those people, any human being would want to do that,” Bryant said. “It’s no secret that everyone in this clubhouse loves playing in Chicago. We love everything about this organization.
“Everyone in this clubhouse would want to finish his career with this team, myself included.”
Bryant understands ownership’s hesitancy to pursue a long-term deal. The Cubs are projected to have a franchise-record payroll exceeding $200 million a year after a quick departure from the 2018 postseason.
“(Cubs Chairman) Tom Ricketts has a focus on going with what we’ve got now and seeing how things play out at the end of the year,” Bryant said. “I don’t think here’s been any talks with anybody. It’s just kind of a different period for us this year. Not a bad thing. Just go out there and win and focus on this year rather than get ahead of ourselves and sign everybody to an extension.”
Bryant admitted it was “strange” to see many All-Stars re-sign with their current teams, with the exception of Las Vegas buddy Bryce Harper, who jumped to the Phillies, signing a 13-year, $330 million contract.
“I texted (Harper) and congratulated him and told him he’s going to love it and eat a lot of cheesesteaks,” Bryant said. “Which he probably will. I love cheesesteaks.”
As for Trout, 27, a seven-time All-Star outfielder, Bryant said, “He deserves every penny of it, and more. The guy has been the best player in baseball, probably one of the best players ever.”
Bryant’s goal of being the best he can be has been buoyed by a healthy left shoulder and renewed confidence in his swing.
“He’s really upbeat,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You guys have noticed that. He’s upbeat because he feels strong again. (The medical staff) focused a lot of the rehab on just getting the shoulder stronger, and his particular type of swing is the one that can break that down, so we’ve gone about it properly.
“He’s ready to roll.”