Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein overplayed his hand with top prospect Kris Bryant.
Kris Bryant is angry with the Chicago Cubs. He wanted to start the season at Wrigley Field tonight versus the St. Louis Cardinals, not this coming Thursday at AutoZone park in Memphis versus the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate because of absurd MLB service time rule that benefits no one. Cubs president Theo Epstein claims he is doing Bryant a favor sending his top prospect down,
"“We are going to afford him the same luxury we tend to afford most if not all young players, which is go off and get into the rhythm of the season and play and we’ll get to you quickly.”"
Bryant does not feel he needs to be “afforded the luxury”. He let his feeling be known to ESPN’s Pedro Gomez belongs in the major leagues.
"“I really wanted my performance this spring to matter,” Bryant said. “I just felt it didn’t matter as much (to them) as it did to me.”"
And now the Cubs have a problem. They have angered their top prospect, their MVC, most valuable Cub. A poor position to be in. Any premium prospect like Kris Bryant typically signs long before they ever reach free agency in six, or the now seven years the Cubs will have control of Bryant. Mike Trout signed. So did Giancarlo Stanton, Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun and 99 percent of premium prospects, well before free agency comes.
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When Theo Epstein and company sit down at that negotiating table with Bryant and agent Scott Boras in a couple years, they will want to have a conversation with an appreciative player, not one who will in all likelihood remember the 2015 spring demotion. Ask yourself, if you were Kris Bryant would you be less likely to give the Cubs a hometown discount now?
The answer seems to be an emphatic yes.
Epstein could have decided to buck his own convention. He could have decided to thrill a Cubs clubhouse and manager who would love to start their season with the player that had the best spring training of nearly anyone in the history of the game – 425/.477/ 1.175 – an MLB best 9 home runs. He could have decided that a Bryant looking back positively on his 2015 start is a chance worth taking for an extra “control year.”
Based on performance, Bryant should have been called up last year. Between Double and Triple-A his slash line was an also absurd .325/.438/1.098. If the Cubs were really trying to win in 2015, wouldn’t you want Bryant getting his feet wet in September?
The Cubs continue to tip-toe towards competing with the signing Jon Lester and hiring Joe Maddon. They were close on James Shields as well, but didn’t want to overpay in a win-now move. Bryant starting the season in the minors is another not-win-now move. Which, is fine, but not in line with the thought process behind the Lester signing and Maddon hiring. The Cubs should remember they are not the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres or Miami Marlins. They are a big market club, with a big market jumbo-tron and other mini-trons and revenue streams on the way.
By using their right to control Bryant for one more year now, the Cubs could end up paying more down the line. They also sent a message to the current clubhouse that upper management is still more focused on the future than the present. A lose-lose all around.
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