There was unabashed outrage last week when the Indians sent top prospect Francisco Lindor to Triple-A to start the 2015 season.
A move that the Indians basically stated from the time he played in his first Spring Training game of the year, was coming. They had no reason to take Lindor north after 38 games at Columbus last year and his minor league career worst 36 strikeouts-to-nine-walks ratio in those 38 games.
Feb 28, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (77) throws a Los Angeles Angels runner at first base in the eighth inning at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The Los Angeles Angels won the game 15-3. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Their situations are a little different – the Indians are in win-now mode but have Jose Ramirez, who is already a major league caliber player, at shortstop.
The Cubs did go out and spend big money on Jon Lester and traded for catcher Miguel Montero, proving they are ready to come out of their rebuilding mode, however with several other prospects with little to no seasoning in the majors, they aren’t quite ready for prime time in 2015.
However, the Cubs are opening with Mike Olt at third base, who was a top prospect at one time but hasn’t lived up to the hype since he was acquired from the Texas Rangers.
The similarity in these two situations is the business decision both clubs made in gaining an extra year of control over their top prospects.
What will the Indians lose in terms of wins this season if Lindor were to come up and play everyday some time later in the summer? Probably nothing. In fact, Ramirez’s previous exposure and success likely gives them a better chance in April/May than Lindor might as he would be just getting his feet wet.
Would the Cubs benefit more from Bryant played from day one, in terms of wins?
Absolutely no question.
But, in 2020, when the Cubs window with Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo and Bryant comes to the end of the road without a championship when Bryant is 27 years old, then what? Not to mention, Lester won’t be carrying the team when he’s 37.
As Steve Adams pointed out over at MLBTradeRumors, delaying Bryant’s major league debut by 12 days would allow them to retain his services until 2021 and Bryant is 29.
12 days at the age of 21 in a season where the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates are still clearly ahead in terms of competing for the division, or six months at age 29, in his prime, in a pennant race?
It’s not a hard decision.
The outrage is just as embarrassing as it is confusing.
I get it. At least three generations of Cubs fans haven’t seen a World Series. But watching Bryant play third base (where he actually needs some more work at probably, according to the Cubs) and hit on Opening Day isn’t going to make that trophy magically appear this year.
Look at the Atlanta Braves
Rebuilding this year (if they won’t say it, I’ll do it for them) and looking to compete when their new ballpark opens.
Because Jason Heyward was in their Opening Day lineup in 2010 at the age of 20, he’s now a St. Louis Cardinal. The Braves might very well be where they are now in that same case anyway, but Heyward would have been a free agent after the 2016 season, not this year, if the Braves had waited until the end of April or early May to bring him up. They could have either hung on to him or possibly have gotten more back in a trade with two years of contractual control left.
Mar 25, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward (22) makes a catch against the Washington Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Nationals 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Sports and their fans are no doubt in a ‘what-have-you-done-for-me-lately’ relationship, even more so in Cleveland and Chicago with the Cubs.
Bryant (and Lindor) playing games in April or May don’t guarantee a championship more than filling out completely opposite brackets to hedge your bets will win you your March Madness pool.
If you want to be the 1997 or 2003 Florida Marlins, win one championship and call it a life, ask how life has been for ownership down in Miami. Even though the Marlins just gave Giancarlo Stanton a mansion full of cash and extended the exciting Christian Yelich, ownership still can’t shake the usual second guessing that they’ll just trade them away like the post-World Series dumps and Mark Buerhle/Jose Reyes/Heath Bell.
That should sound familiar in the Indians situation with the “they trade Cy Young winners” mantra.
Bottom line – the model for teams who aren’t the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox, the goal is to find a way to sustain success when you can’t throw money at your problems every off-season. GM’s are protecting their investment long-term just as anybody else would by say, not driving a sports car in the winter in Cleveland.
Luckily for the Cubs (and Indians), fans, your front offices are looking towards the future for you, because you have tunnel vision. In 2021 when both teams are in the middle of end of their window, they’ll have one more year of Bryant and Lindor because they didn’t play in April. For fans of either team – there will be a lot of time to watch both over the next six years.