Kris Bryant was hoping to win a spot on Chicago's roster this spring, however the Cubs reassigned Bryant to minor league camp on Monday, suggesting he will not make the team's Opening Day roster. Bryant has just three games' experience in Triple-A, and he will head to Iowa with second base prospect Javier Baez.
Although Bryant felt he was competing for a spot on the roster, the decision to have him continue to develop in Triple-A was expected because of his service time. Chicago will benefit by having him open the season in the minors, as keeping him in Iowa for at least 12 days will give him 171 total days of major league service time. Instead of having team control over Bryant from 2015-2020, the organization will have control through 2021.
The Cubs may be in a position to consider extending Bryant, however he is represented by Scott Boras, and Boras rarely encourages young players to sign long-term extensions, instead having them go through the arbitration and free agency processes.
Boras told FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal earlier this spring that when considering signing Bryant to a long-term deal, the Cubs had to ask themselves, "are they going to present to their market that they are trying to win?" Boras was also frustrated with the organization last season after they neglected to promote Bryant when rosters expanded in September.
Bryant had success in Double and Triple-A last season, posting a .325/.438/.661 batting line to complement 43 home runs. He showed notable power this spring, hitting nine home runs and batting .425 in 44 spring appearances. Most outlets list Bryant as one of baseball's top prospects, and Boras is not the only one frustrated with the way the Cubs are managing his playing time. After news of the demotion spread, Major League Baseball's Players' Association was quick to express its disappointment:
Today is a bad day for baseball. We all know that if @KrisBryant_23 were a combination of the greatest Players to play our great game,(1/3)— MLBPA (@MLB_PLAYERS) March 30, 2015
and perhaps he will be before it's all said and done, the @Cubs still would have made the decision they made today. (2/3)— MLBPA (@MLB_PLAYERS) March 30, 2015
This decision, and other similar decisions made by clubs will be addressed in litigation, bargaining or both. (End)— MLBPA (@MLB_PLAYERS) March 30, 2015
Despite the association's discontent, the Cubs will not suggest playing time factored into the decision to keep Bryant off of the 25-man roster. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has consistently said he feels Opening Day is a tough time for a player to make his major league debut, and feels it is more beneficial to promote prospects when they are "in rhythm."
More often than not, top prospects are optioned to begin the season in order for the organization to gain an extra year of service time. Minor league time to delay free agency or avoid Super Two status is expected to be a point of discussion in the next collective bargaining agreement. Regardless, Bryant will gain experience in Triple-A before likely making his debut at some point in 2015.