Kris Bryant. Anthony Rizzo. Javy Báez.
The story all season with the three former Cubs core players was their pending free agencies, certainly in the early months of 2021 when they were still with the Cubs.
Now it’s here, and they’re not.
And soon they’ll be able to sign with any team. Bryant, Báez and Rizzo are set to enter free agency for the first time in their careers upon the conclusion of the World Series.
After trading Bryant, Báez and Rizzo this summer, the Cubs publicly said the door is open to bring them back in free agency this winter. However, sources have told NBC Sports Chicago that is unlikely.
Those three may not only have played their last games in a Cubs uniform, but possibly even with the teams they ended the season with.
Bryant, Báez and Rizzo each landed at ideal personal destinations when Cubs president Jed Hoyer dealt them in separate trades at the deadline this summer.
Bryant, a Las Vegas native, joined with the Giants and talked often about how much he enjoyed the experience. His versatility fit the mold of San Francisco's roster.
Báez joined best friend Francisco Lindor on the Mets, sliding over to second base. Even before the trade, Báez said if he were dealt, he’d want to play alongside Lindor.
Rizzo was traded to the Yankees and has family in the New Jersey area.
What does free agency hold for them?
Reading between the lines, Bryant doesn’t appear at the top of San Francisco’s offseason priority list.
“For us, the move at the deadline was really about pushing chips in with this team, which we thought was a really special team and had a chance to do some special things and did,” Giants president Farhan Zaidi told reporters in San Francisco this week.
“But we recognize that [Bryant is] a superstar talent and it’s going to be a really competitive market for his services. I’m sure we’ll have conversations there, but he’s going to have a long line of suitors.”
Bryant had a resurgent season after a down performance in the shortened 60-game 2020 season in which he played with an impact fracture in his wrist. He made his fourth All-Star team, batting .265/.353/.481 with 25 home runs.
Bryant — who had one of his best postseasons of his career in the Giants' NLDS loss to the Dodgers — figures to have numerous suitors on the open market.
The Yankees appear to have more interest in a Rizzo reunion than the Giants with Bryant. Reports out of New York suggest the Yankees will take a hard look at bringing him back.
Rizzo added a left-handed bat with contact skills to a right-handed heavy lineup as well as his Gold Glove defense at first base. His solo home run accounted for all the Yankees' offense in their AL Wild Card Game loss.
The Yankees could factor into the Báez sweepstakes. General manager Brian Cashman said this week shortstop is a priority they will address this winter.
The Cubs also have a need at shortstop but Báez might be positioned to stick around in Queens. In fact, SNY’s Andy Martino reported this week there’s a chance he and the Mets agree to an extension early in the offseason.
Ryan Tepera is another former Cub traded this summer set to become a free agent, while others may as well.
Andrew Chafin (A's) and Joc Pederson (Braves) have mutual options for 2022. Pederson is putting together another 'Joctober' postseason performance.
Craig Kimbrel has a club option for 2022, although one report suggests the White Sox could pick it up and then trade him.
Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies, two members of the Cubs’ Opening Day rotation who struggled in 2021, are also free agents this winter.