JABO: The Kris Bryant Breakeven Point

Kris Bryant is the story of the spring. The Cubs top prospect — and baseball’s top prospect, by most accounts — won’t stop launching home runs. It’s nearly the end of March, and he still has an OPS that begins with a 2. But that’s only part of the Kris Bryant story, as most of the attention has revolved around the fact that the he’s likely to begin the year in the minor leagues. The Cubs are using necessary defensive improvements as their cover, but it’s an open secret that they’re simply responding to the incentives set for in the Collective Bargaining Agreement; by keeping Bryant in the minors for a couple of weeks, they’ll retain his rights for the 2021 season.

While it won’t be a popular decision, it’s clearly the correct one. They are in essence trading roughly 10 games of 2015 value in exchange for a full season of Bryant in his prime, and while the Cubs clearly want to win this year, no player is so great that missing 10 games would meaningfully alter a team’s expected results. Even Mike Trout, clearly the best player in baseball, is only expected to add about half a win to his team’s ledger every 10 games, and Bryant is no Mike Trout. Even an optimistic projection for Bryant would have him adding maybe a quarter of a win to the Cubs season total if he started in the big leagues versus being held down for a few weeks. Baseball isn’t basketball; one guy only matters so much.

But while the rules clearly incentivize the Cubs to hold Bryant down for a couple of weeks, there is a point at which the present-for-future trade-off would no longer make sense, especially for a contending team. Let’s try to figure out where that point might be.

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Spa City
Member
Member
Spa City

It will be a popular decision in 2021.

Cubs fans love to be able to whine about their endless suffering. But 2 weeks of Mike Olt at 3B won’t have any effect on anything. An extra year of Kris Bryant in his prime – that could matter quite a bit.

Two-Seam-Hakeem
Member
Two-Seam-Hakeem

Are Cubs fans the ones complaining about this? Seems like it’s almost everybody except Cubs fans since, as you say, this actually benefits them directly.

Cubs Fan
Guest
Cubs Fan

Some of the media in Chicago is crushing the Cubs if that counts as Cubs fans. They’re worried about things such as his willingness to re-sign in 2021 if the Cubs “play with his contract” now. But I’m all for it!

realist
Guest
realist

@ spa….Not sure how many Cubs fans you know, but i don’t know ANY who “love to whine about their suffering” I for one don’t ever again want to hear the “haven’t won in 100 years” thing again for the rest of my life

It seems to be a prerequisite for every network broadcaster and for wags everywhere…Do I think Bartman touched the ball in the field of play–he absolutely did..did it cause the loss? The error by the SS on a DP grounder minutes later had a lot more to do with it. So did the Moises Alos dramatics and the inaction from the dugout. Is there a Billy Goat curse or a 1969 black cat curse..heck no.

Having said all that–you are spot on about the extra year of control brother!