I originally refused to write about this, but so much has been said about it that I have to say something about the Kris Bryant situation. It’s been known for months that there was nothing that he could do during Spring Training to make the team. It didn’t matter if he hit 1.000 or hit a home run in every at bat, he was not going to make the team. The reason is simple: money.
Kris Bryant is a rare talent. He will be one of the best players in the game and he did everything he could have done to make the team. He hit for a high average, showed some pop, and played decent defense at third. The fact that he is the type of player to command top dollar when he becomes a free agent and he is represented by Scott Boras – who will seek every dollar for his player – means that delaying his free agency is in the best interest of the Cubs.
If Bryant broke camp with the Cubs, he would be a free agent in 6 years and the first year of his mega-contract extension (assuming he re-signs with the Cubs) would be the last year of Lester’s mega-deal (assuming he gets the vesting option). The Cubs would be forced to have two mega-deals at the same time, which would be financially straining. Delaying Bryant’s free agency by just one year removes Lester’s contract from the books, opening up more room for Bryant’s deal.
It’s that simple. The Cubs are trading 10 games of Bryant for another 162. What if I told you that you can have a good thing for 972 games or the same good thing for 1,124 games. Which one would you pick? The option for 1,124 games. Who wouldn’t? it makes perfect sense, except Cubs fans want the instant gratification. Patience is virtue. If we wait 12 days, we can get Kris Bryant for another season at the very least.
It’s very simple yet people are making it much more complicated than it needs to be. Don’t get me wrong, Kris Bryant absolutely deserved to make the team, but this is a business, finances trumps all. The MLBPA said that “it’s a bad day for baseball” when Kris Bryant got demoted. They are absolutely correct, but don’t get mad at the Cubs for this decision because there are 29 other teams in baseball that would do the same thing. Instead, get mad at MLB and the MLBPA because this rule exists. It’s a dumb rule that a player only accrues a season if he is on the roster for 172 days. If the rule wants to remain, then change the number from 172 to something like 100 days. This then forces teams to make a huge decision about whether they want to win now or save for the future. With the rule as currently stands, the Cubs are still contending this season even without Bryant for 12 days. This argument that the Cubs may miss the playoffs by a game or two and Bryant’s bat could have made the difference is baseless. Bryant could make the difference, but that’s an argument for hindsight, not foresight.
Bryant’s demotion has an unintended benefit. He can get some seasoning in left field while allowing Mike Olt to man third base for two weeks. Olt has the potential to move Bryant into left field permanently. Olt has quietly been putting together a solid spring training while hitting for power AND average – something he lacked to do last year. Olt is the better defender and would probably take third base over Bryant.
Bryant’s demotion is solely for financial reasons and that’s okay. The Cubs and their fans aren’t waiting that long for Bryant to come up. We’ve waited 106 years and counting for a World Series. Waiting two more weeks for a key piece to the puzzle is not the worst thing. As Frank Underwood said, don’t cry over spilt milk in Kindergarten. Bryant will be here soon.
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