I’ve written about the Cubs and their growing use of analytics before at this blog, and while I thought I had, it turns out I haven’t explicitly written about the Houston Astros and their extreme uses of analytics – in essence, treating their players as exclusively products and maximizing assets without regard for morale and the slippery slope that can result from that – but others have, so I would direct you here and here if you’re not sure what this paragraph is in reference to.
Anyway, Grantland had a nice piece recently on the Chicago Cubs and the decision they will have to face with regards to their top prospect Kris Bryant. They will need to decide whether a deserving player makes the major league roster right away, or is returned to the minors so that the team can gain a year of contract control down the line. It’s an issue that in hockey hasn’t been too much at the forefront since teams will generally appease their players at the expense of cost control, and sometimes that’s fine. I mentioned briefly in this piece how if I’m the team drafting Connor McDavid he’s on my roster next year, no matter the cost down the line. It’s not worth the black eye it would cause the organization and the potential for McDavid to get upset at management just for a few million dollars of savings for one year in the future.
It’s a nuanced issue because there are borderline situations where it is defensible and even optimal to keep a player in juniors for this reason. But, as the Astros have found out, it can be important to incorporate the human element into any risk/reward and opportunity cost calculations. So if I’m the Cubs, I would think long and hard before making the decision regarding Kris Bryant this March.