Kris Bryant, the Cubs über-prospect, is continuing his assault on AAA pitching this season, thus far posting a .381/.375/.714 (batting average/on-base average/slugging percentage) in seven games with the Iowa Cubs. Yet he’ll probably stay there until next week, at least. But is his agent to blame? Or is it the Cubs?
The story of Bryant became well-known this spring.
Bryant was second overall pick of the Cubs in 2013. He hit a combined .336/.390/.688 over three levels of minor league ball that first season as a 21-year-old.
Then last year between AA and AAA, he raked to the tune of .325/.438/.661 with 43 home runs and 110 RBIs in 138 games and was nearly everyone’s minor league player of the year.
Despite the gaudy numbers, he got no major league call-up last September.
Cubs Executive VP Theo Epstein said, according to MLB Trade Rumors, it was in part because he had just finished his first full professional season. “He’s an honest kid,” said Epstein of Bryant regarding their end-of-year meeting. “[He] said that he was little mentally drained from the grind of the long season. I think it was the right thing, let a guy go through his first full season, and feel good about the numbers he put up.”
This past spring, the Cubs invited the young third baseman for an extended look in spring training and he tore the seams off the ball again, hitting nine home runs in just 14 games while posting a ridiculous .425/.477/1.175 line.
So naturally when it came time for the Cubs, who haven’t been to their playoffs since 2008 and haven’t won the World Series since 1908, to decide who made the team, they decided they had something better than Bryant for third base and sent Bryant back to the minors for more seasoning.
Naturally this didn’t sit well with Cubs fans or Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, who normally rivals Alex Rodriguez for fan unpopularity. But this time he seems to be in agreement with the fans of the long-suffering franchise who would love to see the budding star in Chicago.
“I believe the issue with Kris Bryant is not whether he should be on the 2015 team,” said Boras, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.” The issue is, why wasn’t he called up in September of last year when he could have prepared for the 2015 season?”
“He was the [MLB] Minor League Player of the Year. Others who did not perform as well were called up. And that issue is even more relevant today,” said Boras.
Boras, though ever popular with players due to his hard bargaining, is notorious for having his clients avoid signing long-term “team-friendly” deals and instead prefers to have them enter free agency, thus driving up their price as much as possible.
If the Cubs keep Bryant in the minors for the first 12 days of the major league season, he won’t accrue a full service year and Chicago will have one extra controllable season (2021) with the young star, who will then likely hit the open market as a 30-year-old.
Epstein for his part said the reason for the demotion was to work on his defense. “More than anything, we want him to get in a good rhythm defensively before he makes his major-league debut. That has not happened yet, in part due to some shoulder fatigue that is not a concern but has limited the amount of game action he’s been able to have at third base.”
So while the Cubs keep him down in the minors for (presumably) a bit longer, with the obvious benefit of still being able to get most of a season out of him if they wait just 12 days, Boras can do little about it. Of course, they’ll be just as powerless in the fall of 2021, when Boras will likely serve Bryant up to the highest bidder. They’re both right. They’re both to blame.