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Why we may have to wait to see Kris Bryant at Wrigley

MESA, Ariz. -- With another round of Kris Bryant buzz, after he took the spring lead in home runs this past weekend, it’s probably a good idea to review why the Chicago Cubs may not allow him to make his major league debut on Opening Day next month.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: If the Cubs wait until the exact day they can gain an extra year of his service before he could reach free agency, it means he would miss the first nine games of the season. That’s it. Just nine games.

If you’re Bryant or his family or his agent, that’s upsetting. No doubt about it. If you’re his teammates, it’s nearly as upsetting as every team rightly believes every game of 162 is important. If Bryant can help them win up to nine more, they should be upset.

But for the average Cubs fan nine games isn’t worth a lot of angst. It might actually get you another 162 games of Bryant down the line. So after today, let’s put this issue to bed. It’s NINE games!

Here’s the detailed explanation of why:

If Bryant is in the big leagues for 172 or more days, then he’ll accrue a year of service time. After six years of service time, a player can become a free agent. If Bryant starts and finishes the 2015 season in the big leagues, he’ll be a free agent after 2020. If he’s on the Cubs roster for 171 days or fewer in 2015, he wouldn’t be able to hit the market until after the 2021 season. So do the math: If the Cubs keep Bryant in the minors until April 17 or later, Bryant will be in the majors for fewer than 172 days in 2015. The Cubs host the San Diego Padres that day.

The team has made a habit of debuting some of their top prospects on the road -- last year Javier Baez played his first game in Denver while Jorge Soler began his career in Cincinnati. The simple reason is to give the players a chance to get acclimated before the more intense media pressure of Wrigley Field descends upon them. It’s probably not the overriding reason, but all things being equal we can expect Bryant to debut sometime on the Cubs road trip after that weekend series against the Padres. On April 20 (a Monday), the Cubs begin a four-game set in Pittsburgh followed by three more in Cincinnati beginning on April 24.

OK, so that would make it 12 games or maybe even 16 without Bryant if the Cubs wait until they go on the road to call him up. It’s still too few games to lose sleep over. If they wait any longer, then you have a beef. But at that point, you’ll have to get in line with Scott Boras and a lot of other people.

The Houston Astros were faced with the same situation with one of their sluggers as they called up George Springer last season on that magical date, April 17, after he lit up Triple-A pitching. Expect the same with Bryant.

If he struggles for a couple of weeks in Iowa, that could possibly delay things, but it’s not like he’s going down to work on his offense. In fact, a demotion could be the reason for a bad start -- Kyle Hendricks admitted as much about last season and he didn’t even expect nor deserve to make the team out of camp. Bryant does. So there could be a letdown, but with Bryant’s high level of maturity, it probably won’t faze him. He’ll have to know he’s getting the call sooner rather than later.

If he can wait until April 17 or 20 or 24, the rest of Cubs nation can, right?