Super-agent Scott Boras will highlight the versatility if – when? – Kris Bryant becomes a free agent after the 2021 season, marketing him as the franchise player who can play almost anywhere.
The Cubs gave Anthony Rizzo the night off and started Bryant at first base on Monday, moving him to center field, right field and third base across the 11 innings it took to beat the Kansas City Royals 1-0 at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs have a manager who values matchups and flexibility (Joe Maddon), multiple players who can play multiple positions and an obvious need for pitching. If Theo Epstein’s front office trades bats for arms this winter, Bryant’s versatility could be an X-factor.
Bryant will be right in the middle of that 2016 lineup, but even Maddon doesn’t know if the Cubs should build it out with him as the Opening Day third baseman.
“I think KB could do a lot of different things,” Maddon said. “I just feel good about him playing defense. He’s a good baseball player. He’s the best baserunner on the team, purely with instincts and speed.
“Defensively, I’m comfortable with him anywhere. I wanted to see him at first base. I just think that adds to his resume moving down the road.
“I have no doubt that he could play shortstop. I don’t think I’d want to see him at second base – vulnerable to a guy sliding into him – but I would bet he could play shortstop, too. He’s done a great job everywhere.”
Bryant got exposure to the outfield at the University of San Diego, where he emerged as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Moving around hasn’t hurt the numbers – 26 homers, 99 RBI, .874 OPS – that will probably make him the National League’s Rookie of the Year.
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“It does not bother his offense whatsoever,” Maddon said.
There’s probably too much long-term risk in permanently moving a potential 40-homer guy to center field. But what about as a short-term fix?
The Cubs will give Dexter Fowler a qualifying offer and probably sink their resources into the rotation, creating an opening in center until a young outfielder like Albert Almora develops or an interesting trade presents itself.
“I feel comfortable with (KB) anywhere,” Maddon said. “I could see him as a starting third baseman. (He can start at) any outfield position. And you would feel covered above-average defensively – and that you could win with this guy.”