Chicago Cubs phenom Kris Bryant will be at Wrigley Field in April after all. Or at least across from it.
On Friday, Adidas unveiled a billboard across from the famous Wrigley marquee featuring the 23-year-old third baseman with the text "Worth The Wait."
The phrase could be seen as a shot at the Cubs, who sent Bryant down to the minors on Monday after he finished spring training with a .425 average, nine home runs and 15 RBIs in just 40 at-bats in 14 games. Not putting Bryant on the 25-man roster for the first 12 days of the season adds another year that the Cubs will have with their 2014 top draft pick before he becomes a free agent.
Aaron Kahn, director of baseball for Adidas, played down the tension that the sign might create with the tenants on the other side of Addison Street.
"We just wanted to make sure to tell the folks in Chicago that they have a great thing coming," Kahn told ESPN.com.
Kahn said his team had long decided to buy a billboard and feature Bryant on it, though he admitted the text changed going into this week. Kahn said Adidas did not have any conversations with the Cubs about it.
Last year, Adidas won the right to Bryant by paying him a deal that sources say is worth about $30,000 a year, which is the money typically paid to a perennial All-Star. So, in a sense, Adidas is waiting for Bryant to dig in Chicago as well. The company already made him the first player to wear its new Energy Boost Icon cleat.
On March 30, the day the news of his move to the minors broke, Adidas baseball tweeted out a picture of Bryant with the text: "Their decision. Your motivation." Bryant, who said he was "extremely disappointed in the decision," retweeted it.
"He sees this as a challenge, and we're his partner here to support him along the way," Kahn said.
Although Cubs team president Theo Epstein insisted Bryant's assignment was not a business move, that didn't stop the player's agent, Scott Boras, and the Major League Baseball Players Association from criticizing the team's action.