Commentary: Cubs should do what it takes to re-sign Kris Bryant
|Monday, June 8, 2020, 11:52 AM- -|
Seven years ago, the Chicago Cubs selected Kris Bryant with the second overall pick in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft.
The Cubs were coming off of a 61-101 season, one of their worst in franchise history. Two years prior when the Cubs hired Theo Epstein and company, the group promised success after a rebuild - calling it the plan. The plan had gone on schedule thus far, with some of the worst seasons in the history of the Cubs back to back.
The 2013 draft was a huge checkpoint for the Cubs, they absolutely needed a franchise-altering pick to be both the face of the rebuild and also kick start the plan into the right direction.
Historically, the Cubs as an organization and Epstein’s people as a group had been successful drafting hitters, but the 2013 draft was expected to be one of the best pitcher drafts in years.
The Cubs had the second overall pick in the draft and wanted Mark Appel, the hard-throwing righty from Stanford. Jon Gray from Oklahoma and various other top college prospects were projected to be drafted early and were planted firmly on the Cubs’ radar.
Appel went to the Houston Astros at number one overall, and the traditional hitter conscious organization decided to not draft a highly touted pitching prospect and instead stick to their guns and draft who they believe to be the best hitter in the draft, that being Kristopher Lee Bryant — and they sure are glad they did.
Even with a fair amount of pitchers available the Cubs took Bryant out of San Diego University. The third baseman was coming off of a season in which he led the NCAA in home runs and won the Golden Spikes award — essentially college baseball’s MVP.
His selection immediately brought hype in Chicago, as the rebuild finally had a face to it and some traction in a positive direction. After spending time in the Arizona Fall League and bouncing around A ball in 2013, Bryant spent 2014 in double-A with the Tennessee Smokies and triple-A with the Iowa Cubs.
Combining his numbers at both places Bryant clubbed 43 homers, drove in well over 100 runs, and hit .325 at the dish. This earned Bryant the 2014 Minor League player of the year award.
A dominant spring training had Bryant poised for a big league debut in 2015. We all know how he spent an extra seven games in Iowa before getting called up on April 17, 2015 — in order for the Cubs to capitalize on Bryant’s service time and earn an extra year of control over Bryant’s talents.
(This past year Bryant filed an unsuccessful grievance against the Cubs for their handling of his call-up, sparking a conversation for 2021’s collective bargaining agreement.)
Nonetheless, Bryant made his way to the big leagues, but not before billboards surrounded the Wrigleyville area. There was a ton of hype around Bryant’s name, expectations for Bryant’s career, and pressure on the Epstein regime for Bryant to pan out — and truly spark the rebuild that in 2015 was ready to fly.
After a rough start, Bryant did what he had done in the prior two years, dominated. His rookie season brought him an all-star appearance, two walk-off homers, 26 dingers in total, 99 RBIs, a .275 batting average, a trio all the way to the NLCS and Rookie of the Year honors in the National League.
If you’ve been following, Bryant has been named the best player in his particular class (NCAA, Minor Leagues, Rookies) in each of the last three years. He built on that in 2016. The Cubs’ superstar led the team with 39 home runs, drove in 102, had a slash line of .292/.385/.554, notched his second all-star appearance, and won the National League’s MVP award.
Bryant is the first and only player to win all four of those awards in consecutive years — and Bryant capped off his elite quartet of dominance by assisting on the final out of game seven of the 2016 World Series, where the Cubs defeated the Indians and broke the 108-year curse.
The plan had worked, and Bryant was smack dab in the middle of it and cemented forever in Cubs’ history.
The story of Bryant didn’t end there. Some argue his 2017 season was stronger than his MVP winning 2016 one, where he had an OPS of .946 and a slash line of .295/.409/.537 to go along with 29 homers, 73 RBI and over 100 runs scored for the second year in a row.
2018 was an injury-riddled year for the versatile righty, and in roughly 100 games KB but just 13 homers and drove in 52 runs.
Last season the power was back for Bryant. His 2019 season, which did not come injury-free, saw him launch 31 homers, drive in 77 runs, score over 100 runs, and have an OPS of .903.
Bryant has hit 138 home runs in just five seasons, but over the course of his half-decade he has proved to be much more than that. He has one of the best eye’s at the plate, his baserunning is both an underrated and extremely strong facet of his game — in fact, it led to multiple runs scored in that game seven of the World Series.
Bryant also plays above-average defense at any of the corner positions on the field, as well as even playing center field and shortstop in his career. He is not only versatile on the diamond but as well as the plate. KB has the on-base skills to bat first or second, or the power to bat third, fourth, or even fifth. Not to mention his charismatic personality, boyish smile, and those blue eyes that have captivated the entire city, even Anthony Rizzo.
Despite often being knocked for not being clutch, Bryant has dispelled that notion by coming through it late phases of the game. Whether it be the walk-off home runs, the patient approach or simply making Thom Brennaman fume last season against Cincinnati.
Kris Bryant is just five years into what he hopes to be a long career. If his first five seasons are any indication, Bryant is well on his way to a flag and or statue outside of Wrigley Field, and a plaque in Cooperstown shortly thereafter.
While the world battles a pandemic, the country faces a racial injustice issue and the league tries to play baseball this season, Bryant and his wife Jessica are trying to raise their new boy Kyler, while Kris is looking for job security and a payday.
For the Cubs, they should be doing anything they can to retain one of the most important players in franchise history, and one of the brightest stars the league has to offer.