The Chicago Cubs will, at least given how things look here in mid-June, have two representatives at the Midsummer Classic at Coors Field next month: jack-of-all-trades Kris Bryant and resurgent closer Craig Kimbrel.
Obviously, there isn’t public voting when it comes to the pitching staff, but given what Kimbrel’s done on the mound this year, he’s about as close to a sure thing as there is in today’s world. The veteran right-hander has made 28 appearances this year, averaging just under 15 punchouts per nine and working to a 0.695 WHIP.
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
Given how much of his first two years on the North Side played out, it’s unlikely anyone is more thrilled with how 2021 is going than Kimbrel himself. He’s anchored a Cubs bullpen that ranks at or near the top of the league in almost every significant statistical category. This has allowed second-year skipper David Ross to lengthen the pen with guys like Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Dan Winkler handling the middle innings before turning things over to the potential Hall of Famer.
Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant is proving he’s still a franchise cornerstone
As for Bryant, it’s hard to consider him a third baseman at this point. The guy has played every outfield position and both corner infield spots this season. In fact, he’s played more innings in left field than he has at the hot corner – and he’s done this while leading the team offensively, evidenced by a .915 OPS.
"“It’s one thing to do it in 2016, when you’re in your second year,” Cubs president Jed Hoyer told MLB.com. “It’s probably like there’s some peer pressure to do it. But now, he’d have the ability to say, ‘I’m not doing this.’ He embraces it and it gives Rossy tremendous versatility.”"
Without Bryant stepping up and handling whatever is asked of him on a nightly basis, it’s highly unlikely we’d be sitting here talking about a Chicago Cubs team that enters Tuesday’s game in the Big Apple with a share of first place in the division, sitting 10 games above .500.
Early in the year, his ability – and willingness – to play multiple positions while putting up MVP-caliber numbers looked like little more than him boosting his trade value ahead of the July deadline. After Chicago ran off a stellar month of May with strong play that’s continued into June, though, it’s a very different story. He’s forced the Cubs front office and ownership into a corner: one that could force their hand and make the team buyers.
"“For me, it shows that he’s not selfish. It shows he’s a team guy,” Chicago third-base coach Willie Harris said. “He could easily say, ‘Hey, I only want to play third base.’ But, that’s not who Kris Bryant is.”"
That’s right. We’re talking about an MVP candidate who is everything you want in a franchise icon. Maybe instead of looking at this as a run-the-clock-out scenario on his final year with the team, the Cubs might want to start figuring out what it’ll take to keep him in Chicago for the long haul.