In my Sunday reading, I came across an article for Yahoo! Sports by Zach Crizer that discusses how 2016 MVP and MLB media’s favorite potential trade chip Kris Bryant has been “squeezed” by MLB and the Cubs. It also reframes Bryant’s value as a player in the overall context of the league’s recent history. One quote I found especially interesting is the following:
Since 2010, 10 players have posted multiple 5+ WAR seasons before turning 25. One is Mike Trout, who might be the best player of all time and is under contract with the Angels through 2030. As for the rest of them, their paths lay bare the uneven priorities that drive the movement of star players, with many teams pressing them to accept below-market deals or hit the road as freshly minted antagonists.
[…] Three are approaching the moment of truth now: Bryant, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. They are wildly similar in many ways, but Bryant is the most decorated, most consistent and — in what might count as news to Cubs fans — by far the most durable.
Over the years, Bryant has achieved the reputation among Cubs fans as “soft” thanks to talking heads harping about his various rest days and trips to the injured list. However, unlike Seager and Correa, he has not undergone surgery for a baseball injury. Since Crizer did not provide any further detail to back up his claim about Bryant’s durability, I decided to take a look at the career numbers of Bryant, Seager and Correa. The chart below details their number of games played, plate appearances, OPS+ and fWAR for their MLB careers (all 2015-2021). Please excuse the ugly screenshot, WordPress is cutting off table display on mobile!
I think some of the misperception of Bryant’s durability owes to being under the microscope as the player expected to carry his team. Every missed game becomes a breaking news event. He is also not a person who carries himself like a stereotypical macho jock, so when he misses games, this is blamed on lack of personal fortitude rather than a genuine medical issue.As you can see, while fans complain about Bryant being “hurt all the time”, he has appeared in far more games and made significantly more plate appearances than Correa and Seager. He has also posted a higher OPS+ and been worth more theoretical wins to his team. Yet Correa and Seager are likely to command higher compensation in free agency simply because both are still years away from their age 30 seasons.
I recommend that Cubs fans read Crizer’s article to rethink their perspective on Bryant’s years with the Cubs and his doomed service time labor grievance. There is a lot to unpack. As trade deadline week develops, the air will be bursting with hot takes, so fans should approach the potential end of Bryant’s Cubs tenure with a more grounded perspective.
Featured Image: Kris Bryant squares to bunt during batting practice before a game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 23, 2018 by Conor P. Fitzgerald / Shutterstock.com.