The Chicago Cubs have promoted their top prospect Kris Bryant on Friday, two weeks after the controversial decision to send him to the minors for reasons that may have had nothing to do with his playing ability.
Bryant, the 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, led the minors with 43 home runs last year and continued to slug the ball in Spring Training, leading all players with nine home runs. But instead of starting the season with the Cubs, he was sent back to the minors.
At the time, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein would only says that Bryant was “really close” to being ready for the big leagues. Epstein also responded to criticism from Scott Boras, Bryant’s agent, by pointing out that in his 19 years running teams, Epstein has never had a rookie start the season in the big leagues if they didn’t have any previous experience.
However, many feel the Cubs had an ulterior motive for demoting Bryant, one based on money instead of talent.
By missing the first 12 days of the season, Bryant won’t get credit for a full year of service time in the big leagues. As a result, Bryant won’t be eligible for free agency until 2022 instead of 2021 if he had started the season in the big leagues.
In other words, the Cubs can now get seven seasons of production out of Bryant at a more reasonable salary instead of six.
The downside is the risk that that the Cubs were fielding a lesser roster for the first 12 days of the season in a year with so much optimism. If the Cubs were to miss the playoffs by a game or two, many will blame the Cubs for not having Bryant help during those first two weeks.
However, much of that blame has been quieted so far as the Cubs got out to a 5-3 start and are tied for first in their division. The Cubs even had one of their games postponed due to bad weather, meaning Bryant only missed eight games instead of nine.
There is still a risk the Cubs will miss the playoffs by a game or two. But so far it looks like the Cubs made a smart decision.
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