The Cubs optioned struggling prospect Javier Baez to Triple-A Iowa on Monday and sent Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to minor-league camp.
Baez debuted with the Cubs in the middle of last season and struggled offensively, striking out 95 times in 213 at-bats. The results didn’t change this spring with 20 strikeouts in 52 at-bats. He hit for a .173 average.
Baez had been told by the Cubs previously that he would make the team, despite his strikeout struggles.
“In a healthy organization there should be different opinions expressed, bounce ideas off each other, talk about different aspects of the game and how you weigh different variables,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said of the decision to demote Baez. “These players were new to Joe. He’s just seeing them for the first time. We couldn’t have had healthier debate on it. In the end we all agreed.”
Bryant, who had the best spring of any player in the majors, has been the source of many headlines in camp. He hit nine home runs and batted .425 in 14 games. The Cubs can retain a year of control over the prospect before he reaches free agency by delaying his major-league callup a few weeks.
“He’s a brilliant talent, there’s no denying any of that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m not going to sit here and try to say things that are disingenuous. This guy is good. He’s going to be really good. I can’t wait for him to get back up. He’s going to be a big part of our future.”
Epstein also said there are no hard feelings between the organization and Bryant nor between the organization and agent Scott Boras, who preemptively lashed out at the Cubs last week for planning to demote the mega prospect.
Russell and Bryant are two of the top five prospects in baseball according to most scouting sites.
“I could probably be in this game for a long time and not send down three players that talented on the same day ever again,” Epstein said.