Although his promotion to AAA Iowa – the doorstep of the big leagues – after two and a half months of destroying AA was met with incredible hoopla and fanfare, Kris Bryant’s promotion to the big leagues is going to make that look like throwing a pool party in a plastic tub.
And it’s probably partly for that reason, among many others, that Bryant’s promotion to the big leagues won’t be happening this year.
That, according to team President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who told the Tribune, “I don’t foresee a scenario where [Bryant] would be up this year. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do for someone in his first full professional season, barring extraordinary circumstances both with respect to the player and what’s going on with the big league club.”
In other words, maybe if the Cubs had an extreme need for an extremely ready first year pro, then you could see him brought up. But, with the Cubs battling for last place, and with the kind of attention and pressure that would attend a Bryant promotion, there are plenty of reasons not to rush things. The primary reason, of course, is developmental, and I’m sure there are plenty of things Bryant can do at AAA this year to put himself in the best long-term position to succeed. I trust the Cubs in that regard.
And, let’s be perfectly honest: if Bryant stays at AAA until late April next year – just a few weeks next year – the Cubs get team control over him for an entire extra season in 2021. That may not sound like much, but consider that Bryant will be 29 that year, and very much still in his prime. Not only is that a valuable, valuable year of control, but it ensures that the Cubs won’t have to battle with the rest of baseball for Bryant’s services. Having netted a huge signing bonus already, and having Scott Boras as his agent, Bryant is not a particularly good candidate to lock down with a long-term extension. You’d love to do it, sure. But I wouldn’t count on it.
So, ensuring that Bryant won’t reach free agency – and possibly leave – for an entire extra year in his prime (when the Cubs might really need him) is very much worth the pain of waiting a few weeks in April to see him next year. This is an entirely separate question from waiting until mid-to-late June on a guy so that you can avoid Super Two status. Sure, avoiding it is ideal, since the player then gets four years of arbitration instead of three, and can be much more expensive, but if a guy is truly ready, and you’re a large market club, that’s a bullet you bite. Waiting just a few weeks for an entire extra year of control, however? That’s not even a money issue – it’s about ensuring you’ve got the player when he might be most impactful.
Unless, of course, his development dictates that he be up sooner – again, you always defer to development (having a maxed-out Bryant for six years is way better than having an 80% Bryant for seven years). But, from the sound of things, that isn’t going to happen.
Just enjoy watching Bryant (hopefully) do to AAA what he just did to AA. And then we can all get excited about what might happen early next season.