I’m glad I cautioned myself not to buy it when David Ross said that Kris Bryant was potentially available off the bench last night. We’ve seen this time and time again in the Ross era, and it’s now a Law of Ross: when this Cubs manager says a guy might be available off the bench after suffering a boo-boo in recent days, that player is absolutely, positively not actually available off the bench. Ross just doesn’t like to show his cards before a game.
Thus, when the multiple perfect opportunities to deploy Bryant as a pinch hitter came last night, he stayed seated. And then the Cubs played Robinson Chirinos at second base in the 10th inning after some maneuvering around the infield, because that’s just how extremely unavailable Bryant was.
After the game, Ross conceded that Bryant was wholly unavailable, and in further opposition to his pre-game comments, he said he didn’t know if Bryant would be available to play tonight (Montemurro).
Just hamstring fatigue, eh?
Your Spidey sense should be tingling here, though you might not know exactly which BS direction this whole thing is going in. Like I said yesterday, something about this situation seems a little off.
It could be the case that Bryant’s hammy is bothering him more than the Cubs are letting on, and because of the approaching Trade Deadline, they are desperately trying to keep on a positive, short-term face. It could instead be that Bryant’s hammy is barely bothering him at all, but the Cubs know they are close enough in trade talks that they just flat out don’t want to risk playing him (and whatever trade partner they’re in deep with also knows this, so there are no concerns).
The problem for us as outside observers is that Bryant not playing last night, and then maybe not playing again tonight, would be equally consistent with either of those explanations. It isn’t actually going to tell us anything, and it’s clear that the Cubs are going to manage their words so carefully – or just lie – that we can’t really take much away from that, either.
So what now? We just see if Bryant plays tonight, which would tell us the hamstring is fine and the trade talks are not super-extremely-advanced. And if Bryant doesn’t play, well, like I said: either the hammy ain’t great or the trade is getting close.
My best guess is that it’s mostly the former, but informed by the latter. That is to say, my read on the situation is that Bryant could use the rest – it’s not a hamstring injury, but the Cubs desperately don’t want whatever he’s feeling in there to become one – and the Cubs know they can and will trade him if he’s healthy. So maybe there are no specific talks that are at the one yard-line, but the whole process is close enough that fatigue in Bryant’s hamstring has them sufficiently scared that they know they need another day or two or three to get him right.
If I’m right, then what will happen is Bryant will sit again tonight, and Ross will say some things about an abundance of caution, it’s just rest, wanted to give him two full days off, yada yada. Then, at some point this weekend, Bryant will have to play again for the Cubs to clear up any concerns with potential trade partners. And then the trade talks will accelerate, and it’s possible Bryant will get another day off for “fatigue” or “rest” or whatever, but by then, everyone will know that it’s just about protecting him during active trade talks.
If I’m wrong, maybe we’re already in that zone. Or maybe he’s just hurt. Until and unless somebody lets something slip, we’re aren’t actually going to know the truth. Hooray for the confluence of “injuries” and “trade rumors,” right?