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Cubs send down Baez, Bryant, Russell

Heralded trio ticketed for Minor Leagues to start 2015 season
March 30, 2015

Chicago's loss is Des Moines' gain, at least for the next few weeks.

The Cubs demoted Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell from Major League camp on Monday, with Baez and Bryant likely headed to Triple-A Iowa to start the season. Baez was officially optioned, while Bryant and Russell are not yet on the 40-man roster and were simply re-assigned to Minor League camp.

"I could be in this game for a long time and not send down three players that talented on the same day ever again," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told MLB.com. "Those three are pretty good."

Bryant -- ranked No. 2 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list and the top prospect in Chicago's system -- hit .425 with a Cactus League-best nine home runs in 14 games. Drafted as a third baseman, Bryant also worked in the outfield this spring.

The 23-year-old's status with the Cubs has been fodder for national debate this spring. The San Diego product obliterated the Minor Leagues last year, hitting .325 with an MiLB-best 43 home runs between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A. Despite that dominance and an outstanding Spring Training, the Cubs have decided not to immediately promote Bryant to the Majors. By keeping him in the Minor Leagues for roughly two weeks, Chicago would ensure Bryant remains under team control for an extra season, through 2021.

"You know he's going to be there [in the big leagues] eventually," Maddon told MLB.com. "When you look at the entire picture of development, you're still looking for a couple other areas to improve a little bit.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you wouldn't want him in your lineup -- there's no question you want him in your lineup," Maddon added. "He's also 23. I'm looking forward to working with this guy for the next 15 years. That'll make me 76. If I'm the next Jack McKeon, I'll be working with this guy when I'm 76 years of age."

The Major League Baseball Players Association issued a statement following that decision.

"Today is a bad day for baseball," the MLBPA said. "I think we all know that even if Kris Bryant were a combination of the greatest players to play our game, and perhaps he will be before it's all said and done, the Cubs still would have made the decision they made today. This decision, and other similar decisions made by clubs will be addressed in litigation, bargaining or both."

Baez, meanwhile, exhausted his prospect eligibility last season. In 52 games, the infielder hit .169 with nine home runs and five stolen bases. This spring, Baez batted .173 with 20 strikeouts in 16 games. The 22-year-old opened 2014 with Triple-A Iowa, overcoming a lackluster start to hit .260 with 23 homers in 104 games prior to his Major League promotion.

Russell spent most of last season at the Double-A level, hitting .294 in 50 games with Tennessee following a midseason trade from the Athletics. The shortstop hit .324 with a home run in 12 Cactus League games this spring.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner.