Baumann: The human cost of the Cubs’ Kris Bryant decision

From SABR member Michael Baumann at Grantland on March 3, 2015:

Tony Clark is cheesed off again.

The former All-Star first baseman and current head of the MLBPA has a public style that sets him apart from his peers in other North American sports unions. He isn’t a fire-breathing crusader, like the NBPA’s Michele Roberts, or an intractable stalwart negotiator, like the NHLPA’s Donald Fehr. Every once in a while, Clark will poke his head above ground and witness an owner or front office doing something slimy but not technically against the rules — something major league teams have been doing fairly openly for years, and something that’s common knowledge to players, agents, journalists, and fans alike — and huff and puff to make sure everyone knows he’s aware of the issue and really mad about it. And then he’ll go back to doing whatever it is he does the rest of the time.

Last year, the trigger was teams waiting until midseason to sign Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew, free agents anchored down by compensatory draft slots. This year, it’s the looming threat of the Cubs holding superprospect Kris Bryant down in the minors for a few weeks to prevent him from accruing service time.

Most of you already understand the concepts of “Kris Bryant” and “service time,” but they’re important enough to repeat.

Bryant, 23, is a minor league third baseman in the Chicago Cubs system, and, simply put, he represents the next step in human evolution. He stands 6-foot-5 and is one of the four or five most handsome men I’ve ever seen, including on television. More importantly, Bryant is very good at baseball. As a junior at the University of San Diego, he hit 31 home runs in 62 games, a preposterous total considering that the NCAA’s use of BBCOR bats and high-seamed baseballs at the time made it easier to put a rocket into orbit than to hit a baseball over a fence. That performance impressed the Cubs enough to make Bryant the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, and since then, he’s traversed six minor league levels, including the Arizona Fall League, in a year and a half. A two-game stint in rookie ball notwithstanding, Bryant has posted an OPS of 1.000 or higher at every level, up to and including Triple-A. In January, ESPN’s Keith Law named Bryant the top prospect in baseball; so did Baseball America and FanGraphs’s Kiley McDaniel.

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Originally published: March 4, 2015. Last Updated: March 4, 2015.