Why Bryant return as Giant could be new normal for Cubs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Six years and a month ago, the new-look, ramped-up Cubs opened a series against the Giants, and in the span of four days went from a division upstart to a National League contender — sweeping the defending-champion.
A year later, the Cubs rallied in the ninth inning of Game 4 to beat the Giants in the best-of-five NL Division Series on the way to their historic World Series title — a division series most of those Cubs still consider the closest call they had during that magic-carpet postseason.
And don’t even get us started on Merkle’s Boner of 1908.
Suffice to say the Giants have played a big role in some of the biggest moments in Cubs franchise history.
And when it comes to the more recent achievements, Kris Bryant was in the middle of all of it — 4-for-11 with a double, decisive homer and three walks during that 2015 breakthrough series on the way to a Rookie of the Year Award and raking again after a 2016 MVP season in that postseason series, including starting the winning Game 4 rally with a hit.
So what does that have to do his return Friday to Wrigley Field barely a month after the Cubs traded him to the Giants?
Mostly this: Take a good look this weekend at what has a chance to be a new normal in that Cubs-Giants lore.
Because there’s not a better fit for Bryant long-term when he becomes a free agent this year than the place he and those close to him considered the ideal non-Chicago locale and that will have plenty of money to get a deal done for him.
And that might make scenes like Friday — with Bryant playing left field and batting fifth for a Giants team that won its 91st game — an annual event at Wrigley Field.
It’s certainly more likely than a return to Chicago for the four-time Cubs All-Star.
“Kris has been a great fit for us,” said Giants general manager Scott Harris, who was a fast-rising, young executive for the Cubs when Bryant was drafted second overall in 2013.
“His personality fits well with some of the other veterans that we have in our clubhouse, and he keeps his head down and does his job every day,” Harris added. “And that’s the mindset that our team has adopted this year, and it’s worked really well for us.”
That doesn’t even count the talent boost he provides for an aging core of a team that’s chasing its fourth World Series championship in 12 years.
“Kris has a rare combination of power and versatility,” Harris said. “He strengthens the middle of our order while bouncing between as many as five different positions. And that’s a very good fit, given the talent we have up and down our roster.”
Not that Harris or anyone else with the Giants has even brought the suggestion of an extension to Bryant at this point, Bryant said.
But the Las Vegas native and natural-born West Coast guy has said repeatedly how much he likes San Francisco and the team culture, not to mention those 91 wins.
“It’s a good fit for me, and I’m having a great time so far,” Bryant said Friday during an emotional return to Wrigley for the first time since the trade. “We’re winning, and that makes everything better, too.
“But at the same time,” he added, “I’m here, and there’s a lot of memories here, and like I keep saying, I’m not closing the door on here, either — or anywhere, for that matter. It would be pretty stupid for me to say anything other than that.”
Especially with agent Scott Boras in the process of putting together Bryant’s “Manifold” portfolio for this winter’s free agent pitches.
He won’t have to hard-sell the Giants.
“Getting to know his personality, he’s a quiet, thoughtful and interesting person,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “That stands out to me. It doesn’t surprise me. I just didn’t know it.”
Kapler raved about Bryant’s versatility and unsolicited offer upon his arrival to play anywhere and hit anywhere the Giants needed.
“We’ve tried to establish, and I think we’ve made progress in establishing, a very unselfish, teammate-first atmosphere,” Kapler said. “And I think Kris has not only fit in well but kind of embodied it.”
Good fit? Culture guy? Long-term likelihood?
“I’m just having a good time getting to know new people and new staff,” Bryant said, “and just the way a new team goes about things.”