Arenado versus Bryant? It was almost Arenado and Bryant for Rockies

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Many Colorado Rockies fans were rankled after the 2016 season when Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs was named National League MVP despite putting up offensive stats that were virtually identical to Nolan Arenado‘s, while Arenado was (and is) clearly the better defensive third baseman.

Many Cubs fans had the same resentment recently towards ESPN’s Buster Olney when the writer ranked Bryant fourth¬†(paywall) among all MLB third basemen — with Arenado ranked No. 1.

Cubs and Rockies fans can argue until they’re blue (or purple) in the face about which is better — one has multiple Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers, the other has a World Series ring and an MVP — but there was almost a scenario in which the two would have been playing side-by-side at Coors Field.

Thomas Harding, the Colorado Rockies beat writer for MLB.com, joined Gil Whiteley and Mark Jackson on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 on Monday and said the Rockies very nearly selected Kris Bryant in the 2013 MLB Draft.

“Back in 2013, the Rockies had the third overall pick,” Harding told Whiteley and Jackson. “They expected the Cubs to take [Oklahoma right handed pitcher] Jon Gray [with the second pick] and so the Rockies would have gotten Kris Bryant.”

Of course, Bryant went to the Cubs and Gray went to the Rockies and the rest, as they say, is history. Bryant has gone on to establish himself as the long-term third baseman in Chicago and helped deliver the Cubs’ first World Series victory in over a century. Arenado, meanwhile, became the first player in NL history to open his career with five consecutive Gold Glove awards and is on track — as Harding suggests — to be a Hall of Fame third baseman comparable only to Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt.

While Harding feels that the Rockies will be happier in the long run with landing Gray, their projected No. 1 starter for the coming years, in that 2013 draft, it’s hard not to think what could have been with Arenado and Bryant in the same lineup.

“Kris Bryant would be the right fielder in Denver right now, not the third baseman,” Harding says, recalling how things unfolded on that 2013 draft day.

“In fact, I woke up that morning and wrote a full story on the Rockies drafting Kris Bryant. I called a couple of guys in the organization [and said], ‘Hey, I’ve got my Kris Bryant story ready. Does that make sense?’ And one of them starts laughing into the phone and says, ‘If you haven’t written a Jon Gray story…’

“It was just kind of breaking up that the Cubs even though they had looked at Gray really hard, all of their people very quietly said, ‘We want Bryant.’ And they went with Bryant because they thought they needed one more hitter.”

Would the Rockies fortunes be any different had the Cubs grabbed Jon Gray with that No. 2 pick? Would the Cubs have one the World Series without Bryant?

It’s impossible to say with any certainty, but it’s certainly a fun mental exercise to consider the possibilities of what could have been.

Click here to listen to the full in-studio interview with Thomas Harding, including his thoughts on Gray’s long-term potential as a top-of-the-rotation starter, or listen in the podcast below…

Catch Anything’s Possible with Gil Whiteley and Mark Jackson every weekday from 11a-1p on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 or stream live any time for the best local coverage of Colorado sports from Denver’s biggest sports talk lineup. Download the app for iPhone and Android devices.

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