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Kris Bryant: Year in Review

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Kris Bryant was the gem of the Giants’ trade deadline. How did he fare over their final 60 games?

Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants - Game One Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Next on the list of San Francisco Giants player reviews is perhaps the biggest midseason acquisition the team has made in the last decade: Kris Bryant. Kris Bryant was moved to the Giants on July 30th, the trade deadline, in return for Alexander Canario (Giants #9 prospect) and Caleb Killian (Giants #30 prospect).

At the time of the trade, Bryant was slashing .267/.358/.503 with 18 home runs on a languishing Chicago Cubs team that was going nowhere fast. Bryant joined his World-Series-winning teammates Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baéz, as well as Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel, as the last of the major moves the Cubs would make to empty their major league roster in an attempt to rebuild their farm system. For the Giants, Bryant presented an intriguing fit as an impact bat that could play six positions on the field: 2B, SS, 3B, RF, CF, and LF. Bryant’s speed, defensive versatility, power, and on-base skills won him the 2016 NL MVP; the Giants were hoping to capture some of that magic down the stretch as they tried to hold off a dangerous Dodgers team. In addition, the Giants most likely hoped to give him a trial run in San Francisco before he hits free agency this year, thereby giving them more data before making a run at signing him.

(He even had a built in rhyming nickname: Bryant the Giant).

2021 Review

In this section, we’ll focus on Bryant’s stats with the Giants. While his time with the Cubs is important for counting stats, and probably his own personal pride, what he did in the orange-and-black is what will make or break fans’ opinions about him. So let’s start with the basic stats.

In 51 games with the Giants, Bryant slashed .262/.344/.444 with 7 home runs and 22 RBIs for a wRC+ of 113 and a 1.0 fWAR. Extrapolated across a full season, Bryant would have been worth the equivalent of 3.2 fWAR with the Giants, which would have placed him solidly in fourth place on the 2021 Giants, after Brandon Crawford (5.5 fWAR), Buster Posey (4.9 fWAR), and Brandon Belt (3.3 fWAR). Bryant was tied for 9th in wRC+ with Wilmer Flores, but added an extra dimension to his offense by going a perfect 6 for 6 in stolen bases.

It certainly didn’t hurt that he did this in his debut.

Where Bryant struggled the most, and where Giants fans were probably the most shocked, was on the other side of the ball: his defense. In 190.2 innings at 3rd base, Bryant made 4 errors for a fielding percentage of 0.929. He was worth -4 runs at 3B and -5 runs in the OF in total. Despite his speed and good hands, Bryant didn’t seem to find a comfortable rhythm in most of the positions he was asked to play defensively. In his defense (no pun intended), Oracle has a notoriously difficult outfield, and he made some highlight reel plays at multiple positions:

He clearly has the talent to play wherever he wants, but needs to become more consistent to make himself a defensive asset as opposed to liability. Still, his versatility makes him valuable, as he allowed players who couldn’t play other positions (e.g. Evan Longoria) to slot into the lineup wherever needed.

The truth about Kris Bryant’s 2021 was this: while the Giants thought they were trading for a superstar a la Scherzer and Turner to the Dodgers, they ended up getting a solid player who helped them down the stretch without being the franchise cornerstone they may have expected from the former NL MVP. Bryant is certainly good enough to carry a team by himself, but he didn’t do that with the Giants in his brief stint. Still, he endeared himself deeply to fans, doing so even more in the NLDS, where he batted .471/.500/.647 with 1 home run and 2 RBI for a wRC+ of 214.

Role in 2022

Kris Bryant was obtainable for the Giants in part because he became a free agent at the end of the season, meaning the Cubs were only trading him for ~60 games. He is a free agent at the moment, and receiving reports of interest from multiple teams, including allegedly the Mariners, who attempted to trade for him during the deadline. This is Bryant’s first bout with free agency, and after the service-time manipulation by the Cubs, it’s likely he’ll be aiming for the payday he deserves. He’s been worth 31.8 fWAR in 7 seasons and has an NL MVP under his belt, meaning he certainly will be expensive. The Giants, asked after the season ended, have indicated somewhat lukewarm pursuit of Bryant. He will be on their radar, and if the price is right they’d love to have him back, but it seems unlikely they’d be willing to engage in a bidding war with a team that’s willing to open the pocketbooks. With Longoria on the books for another year, the Giants will prioritize signing free agent starting pitchers for the coming season as opposed to a third baseman, even one as versatile as Bryant.

Grade: B+

What grade would you give Kris Bryant’s 2021 season with the Giants?

Poll

Kris Bryant 2021 Season Grade

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    A+
    (14 votes)
  • 19%
    A
    (76 votes)
  • 62%
    B
    (242 votes)
  • 13%
    C
    (52 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (2 votes)
389 votes total Vote Now