Kris Bryant played very well in Spring Training after playing very well in the minor leagues last year. OK. “Very well” is a powerful understatement.
Nevertheless, thanks to a combination of factors almost entirely out of his control, Bryant will not break camp with the big league team, and will instead return to AAA Iowa for a little while to get into a rhythm, work on defense, and prepare himself for his Major League debut. The decision was not a surprise, and is not out of step with 99% of similar decisions around baseball regarding talented young players, but it’s engendered a remarkable volume of discussion from Theo Epstein to Scott Boras to Rob Manfred to the MLBPA to MLB.
As for the man, himself, Bryant today spoke to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers and MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat about the decision and about his future. Given the competitive nature of sports, and all the chatter going on around him, I really can’t see how a guy could realistically be expected to feel any other way than Bryant is feeling.
“I don’t want to say I’m mad or anything, I’m just extremely disappointed,” Bryant said, per Rogers and per Muskat. “I wanted my performance to matter and to me it felt like it didn’t matter as much as I thought it would.”
That’s just a small slice of Bryant’s comments. He goes much deeper into how he reacted to the decision – including last year’s decision not to promote him in September – and about his understanding of the business of baseball. You’re going to want to read this ESPN piece and this Muskat Blog piece to get the full sense of what Bryant had to say.
All I can say is that Bryant was always in the toughest spot in this situation. Generally speaking, Scott Boras’s script was written for him. The Cubs’ script was written for them. Ditto MLB and the MLBPA. Bryant, on the other hand, is the guy most clearly in the middle. If he speaks angrily about the Cubs’ decision, then he looks arrogant, immature, and not like a team player. If he says he’s happy about the decision or endorses it, he looks like a liar or a dope.
So, without throwing the Cubs under the bus, it looks to me like Bryant spoke honestly. He’s disappointed because he thought he played well enough to make the big league team, and he feels like he’s ready to show what he can do. How else is he supposed to feel? How else would you want him to feel?
Thankfully, this will soon be in the past (unless there’s a grievance), and everyone can just be on the same page going forward. The expectation here is that Bryant will head to AAA Iowa, the Cubs will sort out their roster a little more in the early going, Bryant will work on his defense in left field and at third base, will get into a rhythm at the plate, and will be up with the big team by late April.