Perhaps sensing that the Scott Boras/Kris Bryant/Opening Day stuff wasn’t going to go away, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein offered up a very thorough discussion of the issue to Dave Kaplan, and you must read it.
Epstein is, of course, effusive in his praise for Bryant, both in terms of his baseball ability and his maturity throughout this process, and expressed frustration that Boras went to the media first before contacting Epstein to discuss the plans for Bryant.
As for the substance of the matter at hand, Epstein simultaneously offered a compelling take on why Bryant – for baseball reasons – may not break camp with the big club, and also reminded folks that he knows a little bit about how to run a baseball organization. Although the final roster decisions haven’t been made, Epstein told Kaplan, “This is my 13th time putting a team together at the end of Spring Training and I have never once put a young prospect on an Opening Day roster when he had to make his Major League debut.”
Bryant is certainly a very special young talent, but it’s not like Epstein hasn’t had his fair share of young stars on whom to make early-season roster decisions, and he mentioned Kevin Youkilis, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Jonathan Papelbon by name. And, before you argue that Epstein’s consistent approach is simply because he consistently wants to ensure an extra year of control over his players, you should know that Epstein would say that it’s about “getting into a good rhythm … in games that count,” and putting a young player in the best possible position to succeed. Even with the Cubs, the Epstein-led front office has clearly been very thoughtful about the precise circumstances for a player to be called up (look at all the road debuts).
So, if there’s a grievance forthcoming about any decision the Cubs make with respect to Kris Bryant, Epstein’s got a ready-made baseball operations explanation for his decision, and a consistent track record to back it up. This angle, by the way, deftly removes the focus from tangible, Bryant-specific performance elements – his outrageous Spring stats, his huge minor league year, his strikeout rate, or his defense – and instead points the arrow at what’s best for talented young players, generally.
Read the full article over at CSN from Kaplan to get the complete picture. There is no public pressure that is going to cause Epstein to do anything other than what he thinks is best for the Cubs’ organization and for Kris Bryant.
I look forward to Bryant’s debut, whenever it comes, and I hope the Cubs’ development process will have served him well by that point.