Chicago Cubs: After bounceback season, Kris Bryant is ready for more

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

After bouncing back from an injury-plagued 2018 season, Chicago Cubs standout Kris Bryant got back on track this year, despite multiple injuries.

This wasn’t how Kris Bryant expected the season to end for his Chicago Cubs. After spraining his ankle on a rain-soaked first base bag, he sat in the visitor’s dugout at Busch Stadium, watching the rival St. Louis Cardinals put the finishing touches on a National League Central crown – the team’s first since 2015.

That’s how too many fans will remember Bryant’s 2019 performance – with him either sidelined or playing at less than 100 percent because of injuries. Still, the three-time All-Star turned in a 130 OPS+ and eclipsed 30 home runs for the second time in his career.

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But what stood out most in the 27-year-old’s mind was the change that is likely coming to the organization after the Cubs won just 84 games this year – their lowest regular season total since 2014.

"“I think it’s like that every year. You really want to enjoy the last few days,” Bryant told “It’s just emotional at the end of each year, because you know the team is never going to be the exact same the next year. Guys are going to go their own way. Guys are going to retire. … You form bonds with these guys.”"

There’s no telling what the coming months will bring to this organization. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has made it abundantly clear: anything and everything is on the table when it comes to the upcoming offseason.

Now that hardly means he’s going to tear this roster down to the studs and embark on a total rebuild. The Cubs have every intention of contending again next season – regardless of which players return in 2020. While it’s not completely out of the question Chicago would trade Bryant, it would understandably take a massive haul for Epstein to move on from the former NL MVP.

Old-school thinkers may point to Bryant’s 77 runs batted in – his third consecutive season with fewer than 80 RBI – as a sign that he’s overhyped or somehow not as valuable as many believe him to be. But he turned in an OPS north of .900 for the third time in five years and with two years of team control remaining, he’s incredibly valuable in multiple regards.

"“Coming back from last year, yes, there is plenty to be proud of for me,” Bryant said. “But, there’s always going to be things that I want to do better. That’s how I’m always going to answer that question, whether it’s an MVP year or the worst year in my career. I’m always going to say I want to be better until I’m done playing this game.”"

If the Cubs want to unlock Bryant’s full potential, they’ll need to fix their leadoff woes. He spent the majority of his time hitting out of the two spot for manager Joe Maddon. But with the team putting up some of the worst numbers in the league out of the leadoff spot, there were scarce opportunities for Bryant to make his presence felt.

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With (hopefully) a new presence atop the order in 2020 and Bryant’s lingering knee issue a thing of the past, the Chicago slugger may very well propel the Cubs back to October in a big way.