Epstein said no decision has made yet on whether Bryant will start the season on the team's roster or at Triple-A. Last week, Bryant's agent, Scott Boras, said the Cubs are going to send Bryant to the minors to start and ripped the plan.
"But it’s not about business. People are trying to make this about business. There are valid baseball reasons," Epstein said Friday. "The process of developing a player, taking him from amateur to major league player and every step along the way, that’s a baseball process. Those are baseball decisions. And that’s what we’re doing here."
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.
Bryant, 23, is hitting .406 with nine home runs and 15 RBI in 32 spring training at-bats.
Over 12 years, Epstein has never allowed a non-Rule-5 prospect to make his major league debut on Opening Day. He said following that guideline isn't perfect, but has had a "pretty good track record."
"People can talk all they want about ulterior motives, but we’re making a professional baseball/player development judgment, something that we’ve done a lot over the years," he said.
- Molly Geary