By: Dan Durkin- Staff Writer
Kris Bryant has been sending outfielder’s way back toward the outfield wall this spring to fetch his home runs. But despite his success, Bryant is the one being sent way back: to the minors. It’s been the major story line of spring training this year, whether the Chicago Cubs should send the young phenomenon to the minors or keep him on the big league roster for the start of the season.
Bryant is a third baseman in the Cubs minor league system, he was the Cubs first round selection (second overall) in the 2013 Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft. Baseball America lists the top prospects each year for every MLB team, and coming into the 2015 season, Baseball America listed Kris Bryant as the top prospect in all of baseball.
You may ask the question, if Kris Bryant is the best prospect in baseball, then why wouldn’t the Cubs not call him up to start the season? The MLB has a rule that breaks down the amount a service time a player can have and when it counts toward a full season.
In order for a player to qualify for a full year of service time, a player has to spend 172 days in a single season on the major league roster, and if they don’t, the team can receive an extra year on a player’s contract.
Bryant is only 23 years old and his contract, if he played right away would end when he is 28 years old, right in the middle of his anticipated prime. If the Cubs would start Bryant in minor leagues for the first 12 days of the season and then call him up, Chicago would gain an extra year on his contract and they could keep him until he is 29 years old.
The reason this decision difficult is because during spring training season Kris Bryant’s stats were incredible.
Bryant batted .425 with nine home runs and 15 runs batted in and that’s in only 14 spring training games, which equates to 40 at bats. Those are usually numbers that will get you a spot on a major league team’s opening day roster, but in this case it makes an easy decision tougher.
This isn’t the only high-profile case where a team had to decide on whether to keep a player in the minors to gain an extra year, or bring him up on the opening day roster and lose a year.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had this same dilemma a couple years ago with their star outfielder Mike Trout. The Angels started Mike Trout in the minors at the beginning of the season, then called him up a of couple weeks later. Trout finished in the top two in the MVP voting the last two years before winning it in 2014.
So is it really that big of a deal that Bryant is only going to play in the minors for two weeks before he well presumably be called up to the major league team?
With the incredible off-season the Cubs had signing stars like pitcher Jon Lester, a move like this sends a mixed message to their fans. The Cubs have to decide if they want to compete and win now, or it they want to keep their best players off of the roster so they don’t lose them to free agency. With a fan base in dire need of a winning team, it makes the decision that much bigger.
Since the Cubs are keeping Bryant in the minors for 12 days we should proclaim the Cubs World Series winners in 2021, since they will have him on the roster for that extra year.
It will no doubt be one of the main story lines that hangs around throughout the 2015 MLB regular season.