Scott Boras, the agent for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, ripped the franchise's plan to have Bryant start the season in Triple-A in interviews Tuesday.
"You are damaging the ethics and brand of Major League Baseball,'' Boras told USA Today. "Kris Bryant has extraordinary skills. Kris Bryant is a superstar. He has distinguished himself from all players at every level he's played."
Bryant, 23, has six home runs in 23 at-bats this spring, three more than any other player. Eight of his 10 hits this spring extra-base hits. He is the No. 1 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America, and the No. 2 prospect by MLB.com. He hit 43 home runs in 138 games in both Double-A and Triple-A last season.
By leaving Bryant in the minors for the start of the season, the Cubs can keep him under team control for another season. MLB players are granted free agency after six full seasons in the majors. One full season is 172 days of service time, so if Bryant stays in the minors for 12 days at the start of the season, he wouldn't be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season.
[daily_cut.MLB]“Cubs ownership has a choice,” Boras told FOX Sports. “Are they going to present to their market that they are trying to win? Tom Ricketts said they were all about winning. When someone says it’s the system, no, it’s a choice—the choice of winning.”
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the team knows Bryant is major-league ready offensively but needs more time to work on his defense.
“The remaining area for improvement is his defense—something Kris agrees with,” Epstein told FOX Sports. “Kris is 6-foot-5 and a half and therefore faces obstacles other third baseman don't face. This spring training we wanted him to work on his footwork, his first step, his throwing, and other fundamentals with as many game repetitions as possible. More than anything, we want him to get in a good rhythm defensively before he makes his major-league debut.”
Manager Joe Maddon said it is important to make sure Bryant is fully ready to debut, lest a rough first few weeks negatively impact his mentality.
“I’ve always believed this with a young guy with a lot of expectations, that if you have a chance to start in Triple-A and get it going, and then show up, it’s a lot easier sometimes," Maddon told reporters Tuesday, according to the Chicago Tribune. "When a guy comes up and just goes from Jump Street and struggles and he’s never struggled before, sometimes that can get in the way. A lot of times they recover, but sometimes it retards the recovery."
Mike Olt will likely start at third base until Bryant is called up. Olt played 52 games at third last season at batted .160 with a .604 OPS.
- Dan Gartland