Kris Bryant will have to wait to make his Cubs debut
MESA, AZ – After a couple of years of difficult discussions about the future of their team and the ballpark that houses them, this spring finally brought a discussion the Cubs were happy to have.
Should he go up or down?
That was the question that was on the minds of fans, manager Joe Maddon and president Theo Epstein as Kris Bryant became the talk of spring training with his play.
Hopes for early success for the team would indicate an opening day roster spot. Hopes to retain the potential superstar for longer had some hoping he’d spend a few weeks in Western Iowa.
Indeed it was the future that won out on Monday when the Cubs optioned Bryant along with shortstop Addison Russell to Minor League camp while sending Javier Baez to Triple A.
“It’s always tough to send talented young players down because that is news they don’t want to hear,” said Epstein when asked specifically about Bryant being optioned to the minor leagues. “We entered camp with the presumptive move to send him to Triple A and it’s always the presumptive move with young players who haven’t played in the big leagues yet.
“You see how camp develops and you see how the rest of your players are performing and see how the roster shapes up and see if there is grounds for an exception to the rule.”
Bryant nearly made that happen when he batted .425 and hit nine home runs during spring training games in March. His performance prompted heavy debate among the fans and especially Bryant’s agent Scott Boras who was vocal to the media about his client’s need to be called up to the majors for opening day
But the Cubs stuck to their plan of having him start in the minors despite the strong spring. By sending him to the minors for a few weeks the team gets Bryant for an extra year before he becomes a free agent.
“His performance mattered and we told him that today. It wasn’t as if he went out and performed in a vacuum,” said Epstein. “His performance really mattered. It made it great first impression on Joe and I think it demonstrated clearly to everybody including us that he’s really close to being not just in the big leagues but playing an important role on the team.
“His camp mattered. We’re more likely to get him sooner than later.”
Maddon echoed similar sentiments when asked about Bryant’s demotion-which he like Epstein expects to be brief.
“You know he’s going to be there eventually,” said Maddon. “When you look at the entire picture of developinment like your talking about your still looking for a couple of areas to improve a little bit. I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that we would not like to have him in the lineup, there’s not question you want him in your lineup.
“But he’s also 23. I’m looking forward to working with this guy for the next…I don’t know…15 years.”
The MLB Players Association was a little more demanding that Bryant be moved up quickly and sent a series of tweets against the move around 3:30 P.M. on Monday.
Bryant has yet to comment on the move by the Cubs.