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Emma: Kris Bryant Will Be Worth The Wait

By Chris Emma-

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Walk from the Wrigley Field upper deck down the ramp behind section 425 and a sight catches the eye. It's an unavoidable billboard and storyline, seen from the ballpark through a chain-linked fence to Addison Street.

Plastered in Adidas brand gear is Kris Bryant, the Cubs' top prospect, and a simple message. Worth The Wait.

The Cubs enter Tuesday's game in first place of the NL Central with a 4-2 record after one week of action. The team is playing well, the bleachers are closer to completion and the weather has been surprisingly pleasant for early April.

So, what's missing?

This billboard is the only evidence in Wrigleyville of Bryant's existence. Cubs president Theo Epstein sent the third baseman to Triple-A Iowa to start the season in order to secure his contract in Chicago through 2021, rather than 2020 if he spent Opening Day with the ballclub.

Make no mistake, this was undoubtedly the right move. Oh, but here's the thing. On Friday, Epstein and the Cubs gain that extra year of ownership to Bryant's baseball prime.

Could Friday be the day?

"I don't want to speculate," Epstein said in a non-denial of sorts. "It depends on what's happening with the roster, what's happening with his development. We don't know yet."

Tuesday marked the second straight day Epstein answered Bryant questions. General manager Jed Hoyer spoke on the subject on Monday, too. But additional signs were evident when utility infielder and occasional third baseman Tommy La Stella was placed on the disabled list and Chicago called up reliever Zac Rosscup rather than a replacement for the infield.

Really, it's almost as if the Cubs have someone in mind to play third base soon.

Translating Epstein -- one of the "geeks," as Cubs manager Joe Maddon playfully joked Tuesday -- Yes, Bryant is coming soon.

What Epstein actually said was, "I try not to think too far ahead in this game."

Of course, Epstein also said the Cubs sent Bryant to Triple-A in order to get the unofficial MVP of spring training "into a good rhythm." I'm sure Bryant's agent, Scott Boras, would loves that line.

While prospects are often difficult to judge, Bryant appears to be as "can't-miss" as they come. He's dominated every level of the minor leagues and has shown no signs to concern for promise in the big leagues.

The best thing for the Cubs to do is put Bryant on a plane from Des Moines to Pittsburgh on Sunday evening. Don't even make the announcement official until Monday, containing the madness that will surely follow. Then, start the slugger at third base that evening against the Pirates.

By doing that, Bryant is protected from the absurd scene of a major league debut at Wrigley Field, where fans will lose their minds and media members will mob him. More importantly, Bryant will receive a week on the road (four games in Pittsburgh, three in Cincinnati) with new teammates and tempered expectations before arriving at the bleacher-less circus at Clark and Addison.

In the end -- which is near for this story -- Epstein and the Cubs' "geeks" did everything right with their handling of Bryant, taking the best interest of the franchise's long-term goal of winning multiple World Series as a priority over rushing up the club's most important prospect.

Soon, Bryant is coming to the Cubs. It may be Friday and it could be Monday, but it appears inevitable that the sweet-swinging third baseman will be soon arriving at Wrigley Field.

As the Adidas billboard suggests, Bryant will be worth the wait.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.

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