The ‘Will Kris Bryant be on the Opening Day roster?’ questions have only begun. While the front office and Joe Maddon were asked countless times during the convention where the Cubs’ top prospect will start the upcoming season, the Kris Bryant Watch doesn’t officially start for another five weeks.
Before the Cubs traded Luis Valbuena to the Astros to seemingly clear a spot for him on the Opening Day roster, Bryant maintained what he’s been saying all off-season and told Comcast SportsNet he is not worried about where he starts the season.
“I think it’s pretty easy for me because that’s the type of guy I am. I don’t really like to look into the future. I’ve never really put [making the Opening Day roster] as my sole focus. Obviously, that’s the ultimate goal, but I don’t really want to think about that because it’s up in the air. I don’t really have any control over it. I’m very excited to get going in Spring Training and show them what I’ve been working on and show them what I have. Hopefully, I go out there and make it really hard on them.”
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer spent last weekend explaining that the decision on Kris Bryant will be baseball-driven and he will be called up when it’s the next step in his development.
“Once it’s the right thing for Kris’ development and the right thing for the team, he’ll be up,” Epstein said.
Following Monday’s trade, Jed Hoyer told the beat writers that moving Luis Valbuena is independent of Kris Bryant and said the team has players that will be working at third base in the spring. And trading Valbuena does not change Bryant’s timeline in his development.
Kris Bryant is expected to see time in the outfield in Spring Training even though the front office views him as a third baseman. The Cubs would like to have as much versatility on the roster as possible. Bryant steadily improved as a third baseman last year but some still think his future is in the outfield.
It was reported early in the off-season the front office is not concerned about Bryant getting Super-Two status. However, it is believed the Cubs would like to keep the extra year of control that would come by not calling Bryant up until late-April, early-May.
By rule, a player earns Major League service time each day he spends on the active (25-man roster) or on the Major League 15-day or 60-day disabled lists. Under the CBA, one year of service time is defined as 172 days. A player may earn up to 172 days of Major League service time during a regular season which generally lasts 183 calendar days. If a player is sent to the minor league on an optional assignment for a total of less than 20 days during a season, he receives service time for an entire season.
Based on the front office’s preference to call players up, especially the top prospects, while the team is on the road, there are two possible target dates for Kris Bryant. And the second is likely the more realistic of the two.
The Cubs have a three-game series in Cincinnati in late-April (24-26) and return to Wrigley on Monday, April 27. Bryant could make his debut against the Reds. The Cubs leave for a seven-game trip through St. Louis and Milwaukee on May 4 (May 4-10).
Calling up Bryant for the first trip in May seems a likely scenario if all goes as planned in Spring Training and during the first month of the season. Plus, if there are no further delays in the Wrigley Field project, the left field bleachers are scheduled to be completed by May 11.
During Saturday’s session at the convention, Theo Epstein said if the Cubs were just looking to protect a player’s service clock the team wouldn’t have called up Javier Baez or Jorge Soler last year. Epstein explained it was the right step in Baez and Soler’s development and the right moves for the team.
While the Cubs have not ruled out Bryant breaking camp on the active roster, everything is pointing toward Kris Bryant spending at least April with the Iowa Cubs.