Kris Bryant has been released from the Minor League stint to start the season that seemed so unfair. The Cubs in their imminent wisdom, and yes that is pure sarcasm in case you were missing it, decided to leave Kris Bryant at the AAA level to start the season. Every story on the kid said he was a can't miss slugger who hits for average. And every story also told us the Cubs could have one more year of control by keeping him in the minors until April 17th.
So it was no surprise that it was announced that April 17th is, in fact, the exact day he is called up to the show. The fact that in the 7 games he played in AAA he hit 3 homers and had 10 rbi made it pretty hard to keep him down. Cubs fans can take solace in the fact that their team was already in first place when the day began. Kris Bryant has had a start to his Major League career he wouldn't mind changing before the day is out. As I write this it is only the sixth inning of the game between the Cubs and the Padres at Wrigley Field. Kris Bryant came up in the bottom of the 5th with men on second and third. The Cubs scored 2 runs in the fifth to take the lead but not because of Bryant. He had the chance to extend the lead the Cubs had already acquired, but instead of doing something he would want to tell the grandchildren about, he struck out for the thrid consecutive at bat. Not the dream start that all Kris Bryant and Cubs fans and envisioned, but reality doesn't care about the pre-fight hype. What they need to focus on is the fact that Bryant is coming up to a Cubs team that seems loaded with all the potential and talent necessary to not only contend but make me believe like they should make the playoffs as a Wild Card at least. If they are not one of the best 5 teams in the National League at the end of the season I will be surprised.
Kris Bryant will almost undoubtedly be a big part of the push the Cubs make. Which makes it all the more foolish the way the Cubs have handled this situation. If you, as management, know you have a talent that you want to be a part of your team for a long time to come, why would you threaten the way Bryant feels about your club by making him take a couple bus rides in the minors that he didn't deserve? For a better model on how such undeniably talented youth should be handled, I point to the way the Giants have dealt with 3 of their stars during their 3 world Series title years, Buster Posey, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.
Posey, Cain and Bumgarner have all been with the Giants organization from the beginning of their pro careers. I think Posey came up a few weeks before he would have been in the same situation as Bryant is dealing with now. It was later in the year then. I think early June. I could be wrong, but I think the Giants brought Posey up before the date that would have been "to their advantage" as far as control going forward. But they had already seen enough during his time in the minors to know they had someone to treat like a champion, with the utmost of respect! Not only that but a few years later and well before arbitration could even become a talking point they signed Buster to an unprecedented (for a catcher) 10 year contract that made any contract animosity between he and the Giants something that would never be talked about, period. When it came time to resign Matt Cain last time, the Giants rewarded the longtime workhorse and 2010 World Series hero with a 5 year contract that made him one of the highest players in the game. A few days later the Giants unexpectedly announced a new 5 year contract for Madison Bumgarner that also made contract negotiations through all his arbitration years non existent. How do you think that makes those players feel about the Giants as an organization? Why would they even listen to what other teams are offering? They know they are respected and wanted where they started their career.
I have to admit that if you look at the numbers, Bryant is even more of a sure thing than any of the Giants I mention at the same point in their careers. It amazes
me that those in charge of the Cubs don't see the potential damage this
little week and a half spent in the minor leagues could do. This is the
same team that has made so many good moves the last few tears to get a
team full of enough talent that prognosticators are predicting good
things for the Cubs. Why would you mess with this kid, who you expect
to be huge for you, by making him wait 11 days so you could exert some
unnecessary control that should never be an issue if this guy is all you
think he is. I know game 1 has been nothing to write home about, but when summer hits and Bryant starts to settle in and learn how to hit at this level, I think it will be time for the Cubs to take an approach that parallels that of the Giants with their stars if they want to have any long term hopes of retaining him at a reasonable price. He could have an injury tomorrow that makes all this talk seem stupid, but I'd be willing to bet this kid is the real deal. If the Cubs don't want to lock him up, I'm sure the Giants would give you Casey McGehee and ANY prospects you want for the kid. I'm pretty sure they would not hesitate to lock up right handed power and talent like his for the next decade as fast as they could. Think about it Theo Epstein.
Kris Bryant's MLB.com player profile can be found by clicking here.