Why it’s too soon to judge Kris Bryant’s departure from Chicago Cubs

Apr 17, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) throws out a Miami Marlins base runner in the first inning at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 17, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) throws out a Miami Marlins base runner in the first inning at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Take a peek at Kris Bryant’s injury report following his trade from the Chicago Cubs and you might think Jed Hoyer jettisoned the former National League MVP at the right time.

However, there is more to the Kris Bryant story over the past year-plus than just the number of games played.

On July 30, 2021, the Chicago Cubs sent Kris Bryant to the San Francisco Giants as part of a teardown of the franchise centered on slicing payroll. Bryant, who earned Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in back-to-back seasons and played a central role in the Cubs breaking their 108-year World Series drought, finished with six-plus seasons in Chicago and plenty of fans wondering why Bryant is no longer part of the team.

Following the trade, Bryant slashed .262/.344/.444 in 51 games with the Giants, belting seven homers and driving in 22. He also shined in the postseason, going 8-for-17 at the plate as San Francisco bowed out in the NLDS to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Bryant was solid in 2021, whether in a Cubs or Giants uniform. This year, however, has been a different story as Bryant inked a seven-year, $182 million deal with the Colorado Rockies in the offseason.

Did Cubs make the right call trading Kris Bryant?

The plans that Bryant and the Rockies had for this season never materialized as back and foot injuries limited Colorado’s top acquisition to just 42 games. A bout with plantar fasciitis has kept Bryant on the injured list since the start of August, but Colorado general manager Bill Schmidt is hopeful that Bryant, who has been hitting, throwing, and running in recent days, can be back on the field before the season ends.

“Even if it’s the last week or last 10 days, I think it would still be good for him (to come back and play),” Schmidt told me in an exclusive chat as the Rockies recently played in Chicago.

“When you kind of envisioned it (the lineup this season), it didn’t play out that way.”

The first year of Bryant’s seven-year deal in the Mile High City certainly has not gone the way anyone envisioned. Part of that has been a learning curve for Bryant when it comes to not only being injured at altitude, but rehabbing at high elevation as well.

“In Chicago (when he was with the Cubs), we never talked about that, but in San Francisco (when he was with the Giants last season), they understood and they got it,” Bryant said about the adjustments to altitude. “A lot of the older guys there made me aware that it’s much harder to sleep here and much harder to recover. It’s no joke. It definitely is.

“I definitely have learned a lot in terms of recovery and just keeping up with your health here at elevation.”

When Bryant was on the field this season for the Rockies, his numbers were solid (.306/.376/.475 in 181 at-bats), giving Colorado hope that, with a healthy Bryant and prospects coming up through the ranks who should arrive at Coors soon and potentially play prominent roles in 2023 (including top prospect Zac Veen and second-ranked prospect Ezequiel Tovar, who was called up to the Rockies on Thursday), Colorado can get back to the postseason for the first time since 2018 (when, ironically, the Rockies beat Bryant and the Cubs in the NL Wild Card Game at Wrigley Field).

In all, Bryant has played 93 games in a jersey other than the Cubs, not even a full season. So did the Cubs get rid of Bryant at just the right time? That’s a question that won’t be answered until he has a full season at altitude under his belt, but the Rockies are putting a lot of faith (and money) in that answer being “no.”

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