Kris Bryant open to new deal, knows time as Cub could wind down

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
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CHICAGO — The text from a Connecticut number welcoming Kris Bryant to the New York Mets took took the Chicago Cubs’ slugger aback.

He’s not sure who sent the message, just that it was jarring. It didn’t take long to find out it was false, too.

“When you get a text that says something like that, it’s like, `Whoa.’ That might kind of mess with me a little bit,” he said.

Bryant appreciated the open line of communication he and agent Scott Boras had with Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and the quick response from the team. But how much longer Bryant will remain in Chicago is unclear.

Bryant said he is open to signing a long-term contract to remain with the Cubs before his deal expires at the end of the World Series.

“I’ve always said I’ve been open and willing to hear whatever Jed now has to say and would take it with open arms and consider everything that is thrown my way,” he said. “I think I’ve communicated that well with them. They know where I stand.”

But there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Cubs, particularly when it comes to some of their biggest stars.

Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez have expiring contracts. All three struggled during the pandemic-shortened season. But they all have played huge roles in transforming the long-suffering franchise into a championship organization.

They helped lead the Cubs to a World Series title in 2016, ending a drought that dated to 1908. But the organization is in transition.

Chicago won the NL Central last season and made the playoffs for the fifth time in six years only to manage just one run while getting swept in two games by Miami. The Cubs haven’t advanced in the postseason since 2017.

Hoyer was promoted from general manager when Theo Epstein stepped down as president of baseball operations, and ace Yu Darvish got traded to San Diego. Bryant said he was surprised by that deal and sad to lose a pitcher who was “really coming into his own here and feeling comfortable and starting to goof around and talk with all of us.”

Darvish isn’t only big name gone from the Cubs. Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber signed with the Washington Nationals. Bryant, Rizzo and Baez all are facing uncertain futures, and it’s unlikely the team will keep all three.

“I just kind of go back on what I’ve said in the past,” Bryant said. “I don’t have anything else to add. There are a lot of really good friends here – not just teammates, but really good friends and good people. I just enjoy taking the field and being here alongside these guys every day. Never taken that for granted, and I won’t start now.”

Bryant has a $19.5 million salary, with Rizzo due $16.5 million and Baez $11.65 million. Bryant’s name in particular has come up in trade talks, though he insisted he is “not surprised at all” he remains with the team.

“I’ve had good conversations with Jed, good communication,” he said. “He’s letting me know what’s going on. I can ask him what’s true, what’s not true. The main thing I got from him is most of it is not true. I wasn’t surprised.”

Bryant was National League Rookie of the Year in 2015 and MVP in 2016. He made his third All-Star team in 2019, only to struggle through injuries last year in his worst season as a pro.

Bryant batted a career-low .206 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 34 games. Two of those home runs came in the final two games of the regular season against the crosstown White Sox. He then went 0 for 8 in the Marlins series, though he felt he made solid contact.

“It had a big impact on me, ending the season on a high note and just taking some really good swings,” he said. “In the playoffs, too. I think against the Marlins I hit some balls on the barrel, lineouts. That felt good. I kind of felt like, yeah, I was kind of finding what I had been searching for last year.”

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.