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Should Kris Bryant be on the Cubs' Opening Day roster?

Should the Cubs worry about a month of the season, or should they worry about seven years from now? Both worries are silly, so we'll have to find which one is silliest.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Kris Bryant is good enough to start the season in the major leagues. Kris Bryant probably won't start the season in the major leagues. We've been through this before, and we'll go through this again. Restricting the ability of young players to test the open market isn't something the Chicago Cubs invented -- it's the foundation of parity in baseball. It's why the Indians can compete with the Detroit Tigers this year, even though they'll have about a third of the payroll. It's not fair to the player, but if there's a common language among fans in every sport, it's that hosing players is acceptable if the entire team benefits.

Keeping potential homegrown stars around for an extra season means 162 extra games to market, 162 games to sell ads for. For fans, it means 162 more chances to watch a player who becomes a star, a fan favorite, before he leaves for an easy-to-understand, hard-to-swallow excuse, like family or wanting to win or money, or whatever it is that grown-ups seem to care about these days. Don't blame the Cubs for that. It's like yelling at someone for writing off their mortgage interest. It's right there in the rules.

We can sure talk about the risk, though. The reward is easy enough to figure out -- the Cubs can win and keep Bryant around though at least 2021. The risk is that keeping Bryant in the minors for two weeks to a month could cost the Cubs a win or two in the first month of the season, which could lead to them losing the division or a wild card spot by a win or two, which could lead to them never, ever winning the World Series again, which could lead to thousands of Cubs fans whispering something about Kris Bryant on their deathbeds, which no one will hear because they will all die alone.

SO. There are risks, yet all of them are sort of abstract and intangible. We're talking about 2021, when the winged horde will descend on our crops and starve us, anyway. We're talking about maybe a month's worth of games, in which it's hard for any player to be worth more than a win or two, on average.

It's time to figure out which argument is more ridiculous.

Ridiculous premise #1: A month without Bryant will cost the Cubs the season

Maybe. Maybe? If you simulate the season 100,000 times, this scenario will come up more than a couple. Bryant could hit a walk-off homer in the home opener. Nuts to yer fancy WAR stats, that's the kind of arrival that builds momentum and announces that a team has arrived, not just a prospect. Bryant could hit 10 homers in his first 15 games, all of them one-run wins. Do you share my dinger fetish? Here, these are free on the Internet.

That's Bryant homering off Felix Hernandez, and it doesn't even matter that the video is an awful spring training angle. You hear the oooooh of the crowd. You see the distance the ball travels. You understand what it means to homer off King Felix, even in the spring. There's almost no way that Bryant can't outhit Mike Olt, Tommy La Stella, or any of the other options to start on Opening Day.

That written, the odds are against a month of Bryant being the difference between 2015 success or failure. Along with that best-case scenario up there are all sorts of other scenarios. Bryant slumps to start the season. Bryant hits into poor luck. Bryant gets his hits, but the Cubs win or lose every game by five, so it's hard to attribute anything to him directly. The player now on the bench because of Bryant misses out on the magical month he would have had if he were in the lineup. There are all different permutations, some more ridiculous than others, but they're all a part of the same pie chart. And that chart has "won't make a danged difference, either way" stretching well past the halfway point.

It's hard for any player to be worth more than a win in a given month, and it's hard for that win to be the exact margin of victory in a postseason chase. Them's the odds. The Cubs, on the other hand, will likely save millions and millions of dollars by keeping Bryant down.

Baseball players are the peanuts in this analogy. It's not just an extra year of Bryant -- it's an extra year of leverage, an extra year to work on that extension. The Cubs would probably save money with this gambit. Then they can exchange that money for other players. If you like logic, stats, and probability, this is the likeliest scenario.

SB Nation presents: Predicting award winners for the 2015 MLB season

Ridiculous premise #2: The Cubs should care about 2021

There have been three times in the last 50 seasons in which the Cubs finished over .500, then finished above .500 seven seasons later. The 1989 team won the division, and then the 1996 team finished a game over .500. Seven years after that '96 team, the '03 Cubs won. The 2001 Cubs were pretty good, but the 2008 team was even better. On average, though, a good Cubs team is followed by under-.500 misery seven years later.

The trend is ticking up, certainly, and considering that hardly anyone from the current baseball operations team had much to do with the last 50 years of Cubs baseball, the above paragraph is a curiosity, not anything predictive. It sure gives you a sense of what Cubs fans might be feeling, though. You can't always count on the Cubs being good in the future.

Embroider that on a pillow. You can't always count on the Cubs being good in the future. You can't always count on the Cubs being good in the future. You can't always count on the Cubs being good in the future. You can't always count on the Cubs being good in the future. Yet the Cubs are supposed to be good this year. And while it's statistically unlikely for a month of Bryant-free baseball to cost the Cubs the division, what if? What if?

This was a similar argument to the one the Nationals got sick of in 2013.

Sitting Stephen Strasburg for his health? But his team is going to the postseason. They have a chance to win everything now. I don't get it.

The road from 2012 Rangers to 2014 Rangers isn't a hill that anyone wants to stumble down, but it can happen. Win now, smile later. Don't worry about tomorrow, just live in today. Prospect in the hand is worth two in the bush. All we are is dust in the wind. And if the Nationals had lost their postseason series by a single game, or if their depth was the reason they were bounced at any point before winning a World Series, we would still be talking about sitting Strasburg today.

The Braves said nuts to seven years into the future. They brought Jason Heyward up as soon as it was clear he was the best outfielder available to them, and, boy, did they have a moment.

That was something. And now Heyward is on another team, in no small part because the Braves couldn't wait a month. This is what the Cubs are trying to avoid. They don't want a Heyward situation.

Yet. the Braves won the Wild Card by a single game in 2010. Heyward had a .880 OPS in that first month. More than that, he had a 2.112 win probability average in those first two weeks, which is an estimated two extra wins above the average player. We don't have to guess if the Braves made the postseason because they rushed Heyward into the lineup -- we have statistical evidence that suggests it.

Would Heyward make the Braves a contender this year? Probably not by himself. So the smart play was to take the shot back in 2010. It almost worked. He was almost the difference between an ordinary season and the 2010 World Series Champion Braves.

If you're still not convinced, note that the Heyward scenario is a false dichotomy. There was another analogous situation in 2010. The Giants didn't bring Buster Posey up right away that season, partly because of service-time considerations, and partly because they were smitten with Bengie Molina's pitcher-whispering on a team built around pitching. Posey would have been a free agent after the 2016 season, giving the Giants an extra year ... except they all agreed to a monster extension well before free agency. It was all moot. So very moot.

If Bryant is a star, that's the most likely scenario. It's not going to be a cheap extension.

scott boras

Hi, Scott!

But if Bryant is going to be the star everyone's expecting, the odds are still good that the Cubs will keep him around. He'll be a minor deity in Chicago. Those folks are usually treated rather well.

If it's not a binary choice between the Heyward scenario and an extra year of Bryant, why would the Cubs tempt fate. Of all the clubs in all the baseball universe, why would the Cubs be the team that tempts fate? This is a horror movie, and we're all screaming "DON'T LOOK IN THE CLOSET, DON'T LOOK IN THE CLOSET" as violins start scrrknnk scrrknnking. Are the Cubs actually telling everyone, "Don't worry, we got this, we don't need the extra help?"

It's the decision of this court that it's far more ridiculous to worry about 2021. If Bryant is a star, if he's everything the Cubs have hoped for, they'll have the money to keep him, regardless. This might be the best shot the Cubs have for the next seven years, you know. This, right now. Prospects are holograms, and pitchers are hand grenades. This could be the best Cubs team we'll see for years. Don't mess with that.

Please don't mess with that.

Bryant might not be the difference between the postseason and second place in 2015, but he also might not be the difference between the postseason in 2021. All we know is that we can talk about the Cubs and postseason without giggling right now. That doesn't come along very often. Take it seriously, Cubs.