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A move to first base is best for Kris Bryant and the Rockies

For the past 10 years, the Colorado Rockies have struggled to replace future Hall of Famer Todd Helton. Since his retirement after the 2013 season the Rockies have sent out players such as Justin Morneau, Mark Reynolds, Ben Paulsen, Ian Desmond, Daniel Murphy, and C.J. Cron. Several of those players have been decent at the position, but most of them haven’t been anything more than a temporary solution to a grander problem. As the season winds down the Rockies have been using young players like Elehuris Montero and Michael Toglia, but neither player has proven themselves offensively capable of handling an everyday spot.

In addition to this problem of solving first base, the Rockies also have the conundrum of too many talented outfielders knocking on the door of the big leagues, and the fact that they are stuck with Kris Bryant’s seven-year $182 million contract. All of these factors have the Rockies considering the inexorable possibility of moving Bryant from right field to first base for the foreseeable. This move may perplex some, but it’s actually the most reasonable and common-sense move the Rockies could make with the situation they find themselves in.

A man of many gloves

One of the calling cards for Bryant that led the San Francisco Giants to acquire him from the Chicago Cubs in 2021 and the Rockies to sign him prior to the 2022 season was his defensive versatility. Third base was where Bryant made a name for himself with the Cubs, at least offensively. In 5,541.2 career innings logged at third base, Bryant has committed 80 errors, good for a .950 fielding percentage while posting a -4 DRS. He’s never been to the caliber of a Nolan Arenado or Ryan McMahon nor has he ever been a finalist for the Gold Glove award at the hot corner.

Ever the team player though, Bryant continued to accept work in the outfield after 2016 with the Cubs as other players like Patrick Wisdom rose through the system and other outfielder options moved on. The move helped his value come the 2021 Trade Deadline where he moved from the outfield of Wrigley Field to the confines of Oracle Park with the Giants, and later a move to Coors Field in 2022. He hasn’t exactly been much of a Gold Glove contender in the outfield, tallying 12 assists and 14 errors in 374 career games, but has been serviceable.

That time may be at an end, however, as he’s prepping to move to another corner infield position.

Injuries have plagued Bryant’s time with the Rockies. Across two seasons he has played in a little over 100 total games in purple. 2022 saw Bryant sidelined with back issues and plantar fasciitis, and he lost time in 2023 from a bruised heel. As injuries have become a problem, keeping Bryant on the field and preserving him for his contract is priority number one for the Rockies. This is why a move to first base will be good for him.

There is a matter of questioning if Bryant can handle first base. This would be an appropriate question if Bryant had never played the position before (see Ian Desmond) but he’s logged over 200 innings at first base in his professional career, including 23 starts. He has committed just one error and has a -1 DRS at the position. It’s a move that Bryant is eager to do for the team.

“They have talked to me about it and I said it’s a great idea,” said Bryant to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.  “I’ve played first base a fair amount and I played some in college, too. So I told them, sure, I’d love to play first base. I have a first base glove already broken in.”

Implications of moving Bryant

Moving Bryant to first base helps give the Rockies more options moving forward. The plethora of young outfielders is surging towards the major league roster. On the big league roster, the Rockies have the stellar tandem of Nolan Jones and Brenton Doyle making cases for Gold Glove consideration. They also have Michael Toglia getting more playing time in right field in an effort to get him more playing time and at-bats, while still providing solid defense in the outfield. In the farm system, there are the likes of Jordan Beck and Yanquiel Fernandez, as well as highly touted prospects like Benny Montgomery and Zac Veen. All of these players are expected to join the Rockies by 2024 potentially, making the need to dislodge the blockage more necessary.

However, it does make the jam at first base a bit more complicated. Michael Toglia and Elehuris Montero have split time at first base since C.J. Cron was traded away. Both players have offensive potential to significantly boost the power numbers, but strikeouts have plagued both at the big league level, leaving their futures up in the air. Alternatively, the team has Hunter Goodman, home run hitter extraordinaire, currently on the roster capable of playing first base along with catcher and the outfield. There is also Grant Lavigne in Double-A but he hasn’t done enough to stand out from the group to force the Rockies hand.

Bryant’s long-term contract forces the Rockies to make some decisions with their prospects and young players. If they aren’t panning out, it’s best to move them for things like pitching in order to boost the roster. The Rockies made their bed with Bryant and must now lie in it. He can still provide a solid offensive output and a move to first base can be a step in salvaging the rest of his contract. A less physically demanding position for Bryant may allow him to take pressure off of his defensive contributions and return to the MVP-caliber bat that he possesses. There is a lot of good baseball left in Kris Bryant and the merits of moving him to first base is warranted and could help the Rockies get back on track in their roster construction and development.

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