Life teaches you some hard lessons when you're young. I understand where Kris Bryant is coming from. You work hard and perform and you're supposed to get rewarded. Sure it happens, but in the real world things aren't that cut and dried. Like it or not, timing matters. Money matters. The self-interest of both individuals and organizations matter.
Nobody understands this better than Bryant's own agent, Scott Boras. When it came to starting Bryant's minor league career, Boras was in no rush. He wanted the biggest possible bonus so he waited until the end of the signing period. He did it because he knew he could then get every penny left once everyone else signed. Boras acted in his and his clients best financial interests. He didn't have concern for the Cubs or any of the other players who might get squeezed out of a potential shot at starting their MLB career. He didn't care that he would delay the start of Bryant's professional career.
It was business then and it is business now.
That doesn't mean Bryant has to like it. I expect that when free agency rolls around in 7 years, Boras willt act in his and his client's best interests again. But don't kid yourselves. That was going to be the case no matter what the Cubs decided this spring. When it's Bryant's turn in free agency, Boras will get him the best deal possible whether it is from the Cubs or someone else. The only difference now is that the Cubs are guaranteed one extra year of Bryant -- and keeping him back for 12 days was the only way to guarantee that.
Boras did what he had to do then and he'll do it again when his opportunity comes up again. The Cubs did what they had to do now. They would have been irresponsible not to use the rules to their advantage when they know Boras used them to his advantage at draft time and will do so again in free agency.
But you know all of this already.
At the same time, nobody should blame Bryant for being disappointed. If anything, I like that he is a competitor and won't accept a demotion easily. He believes he is good enough to be on the MLB team -- that's what you want your players to believe.
“I don’t want to say I’m mad or anything,” Bryant said via Carrie Muskat “I’m extremely disappointed. I wanted to go out there and my performance mattered, and to me, it felt like it didn’t matter as much as I thought it would. I went out there and played as hard as I can and did everything I could. I’m just disappointed.”
Disappointment was inevitable once Bryant started shredding up spring training pitchers and proving he is ready to hit at the MLB level right now. Yet, no objective observer really believed the Cubs were going to seriously give up the only advantage they will ever have when it comes to contractually controlling Bryant. His fate for the start of this season was effectively decided the day the union gave in to these service time demands in the most recent CBA. It was further sealed when he chose Boras as his advisor.
The Cubs said what they had to say -- that Bryant would get every chance to make the team, but to interpret that as that chance being strictly tied to his statistical performance this spring is naive. There are always other factors when it comes to making a 25 man roster and as good as Bryant's spring was, there are still defensible baseball reasons to send him down. There are no objective benchmarks that you can point to when it comes to baseball players being definitively ready, and as long as there is some subjectivity involved, there will always be wiggle room when organizations make roster decisions.
Timing matters. Money matters. The best long term interests of the organization matter.
Bryant's spring training numbers were never going to change that one way or the other. Ideals tend to die hard. The lessons of the real world aren't always easy.
Let's look at the other side of the coin here. Does anyone believe that if the Cubs do everything right for the next 7 years -- if they give Bryant the opportunity to achieve everything he has ever dreamed of and more, that it will be enough to guarantee he will stay with the Cubs for his entire career? Can they be assured that if they do everything that is in their power to keep him that that will be enough for Boras to agree to an extension?
The answer is no. Boras will act in his client's best interests regardless of how and what the Cubs organization does over the next 7 years.
So why should Bryant doing everything in his power this spring to make the team be any different? The Cubs will do what is in their best long term interests.
We can take solace in that Bryant is using the disappointment not as as a reason to pout. He is using it as fuel.
“I’ll use this as motivation, fuel a little fire,” Bryant said. “I’ve been told a lot in life that I couldn’t do it, kind of going back to my high school days when people doubted me. It’s OK to doubt me. I think I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping my head straight and working hard. It’s more motivation for me to go out there and prove myself.”
This is bad news for NL pitchers. The last thing they want is an angry, more highly motivated Kris Bryant.
The good news is that he seems to hold no ill will toward the Cubs.
“When I put on the uniform, and I’m in the Cubs uniform, it’s an honor to play for this team,” he said. “I try to stay in the present moment and not think about the future too much.”
As for that disappointment affecting the Cubs, only time will tell, but I hardly think it will matter. Seven years is a long time to carry a grudge. Twelve days of MLB baseball would be a short-sighted, petty reason to snub the Cubs if they are still his best option after 2021. The Cubs can show it is about the control and not the money simply by offering Bryant what he likely would have gotten as a free agent in his 7th year as part of a long term extension. If Boras doesn't take it and convinces Bryant to test free agency instead, then at least the Cubs would have secured that extra year.
But if Bryant ultimately tests free agency, it will be business as usual. Just the way it has been since day one.
It's simply unrealistic to think otherwise.
Filed under: Uncategorized