The Kris Bryant shaped hole in the Colorado Rockies lineup

May 6, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Kris Bryant looks on against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, remember when Kris Bryant signed with the Colorado Rockies and the collective baseball world reacted as though pigs had taken flight and hell had frozen over? Interesting times. Feels like yesterday.

Yes, it can be hard to fathom that just a few short months ago, the talk of the town was the new superstar and his fancy, 7-year, $127 million contract that made it clear, regardless of how anyone else felt about it, that the Rockies intended to build around him and their already entrenched core.

Extensions signed shortly thereafter for Ryan McMahon and Kyle Freeland drove that point home even further. The Colorado club, as they had said many times publicly, had no intention of tearing down and rebuilding but rather intended to try to turn this whole thing around much more quickly.

Cynics insisted that the Rockies only signed Bryant for the good publicity and the potential to sell some jerseys and tickets as the new face of the franchise. After all, they were going to need someone to appeal to the casuals with Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story gone.

While privately they surely consider the Bryant acquisition a win in this regard, it’s also been clear for a long time, and proven once again this season in his absence, that the Rockies don’t need stars to put butts in seats.

So, despite the criticism, the ballclub in Denver insisted that adding Bryant to the roster was about the play on the field and an attempt to give this team an earnest chance to compete.

There has only been one major problem. He hasn’t been on the field much.

Colorado signed Bryant for the equivalent of 1,134 games and we are only 44 games into that timeframe, but he has only managed to play in 17 of them.

Now on his second stint on the 10-day IL with back soreness, the Rockies’ shiniest new toy has barely been able to come out of the box. When he has, he has been… mostly fine.

Slashing .270/.342/.333, he has shown his trademark patience at the plate, ability to put together consistently quality at-bats, and make good contact. He has yet to show anything close to the kind of power he has been known for throughout his career, still searching for his first home run and only producing four doubles to this point.

It’s perfectly reasonable, then, to look at his resume and believe that when he does return full time to the lineup, he has a chance to make quite an impact the likes of which we have barely been able to glimpse. 

Some have suggested that the Rockies should have known health could be a potential issue with Bryant getting older and having a few injury issues the last few years but other than the pandemic shortened 2020 campaign, where he played just 34 games, Bryant has played over 100 every year of his career and over 140 in all but one campaign. At 30-years-old and considering the precautionary nature of his current back tightness, it is again reasonable to conclude that he should be able to return to his normal self soon.

Of course, the biggest issue for Rockies fans is that this marks the very beginning of his tenure in purple. Anyone who didn’t watch him closely during his years in Chicago, or anyone who operates on the principle “what have you done for me lately?” are going to be disappointed in the Bryant experience so far.

If he already had a few months or a year under his belt showing that he can be a productive member, or even leader of the Rockies, a couple of quick stints on the IL would not feel quite as devastating as it does now.

Instead, all we have are a few well-drawn walks, a couple of well placed singles, and a bushel full of hope.

Still, it is a bit strange to already see the narrative cropping up that this move was a blunder. I guess he’s only got approximately 1,090 games left to prove himself to the doubters.

We should also be very clear here that the offense has been a strength of the 2022 Rockies and unless Bryant has learned how to pitch in the last three weeks, his return will not solve their most pressing problems.

That said, a struggling baseball team can always use more good baseball players.

No matter how well he plays if and when he returns to full health, Bryant cannot fix the Rockies all by himself. But he was brought in for the next seven years, not just the next four months. 

It doesn’t lessen the sting of the current situation. Colorado has been playing some truly awful baseball lately. But of course they will be better with him than they are without him and surely his acquisition ought to be judged on a longer timeline than two months.

Rockies fans sure would like something to cheer for soon, though.

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