Kris Bryant has made a little money playing baseball. He received a $6.7 million signing bonus as the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2013 and has since set salary records for a second-year player ($1.05 million) and first-year arbitration raise ($10.85 million). That latter figure won’t go up as drastically for 2019 after a shoulder injury hampered his performance this season, but Bryant should still pull down about $12 million after another arb increase.
That pales in comparison to what he stands to make when he hits free agency in 2022, which coincides with the expiration of the current CBA and the competitive balance tax structure therein. How exactly the limits will change is anyone’s guess, but suffice to say the players union has quite a bit of strength. So does Scott Boras, Bryant’s agent.
The Cubs would obviously prefer to avoid a scenario that sees them stringing their superstar along with arbitration raises by locking him into a long-term extension. Such a move would benefit Bryant by guaranteeing him higher salaries during his arbitration years and it’d help the Cubs by having him around through his prime at presumably lower average annual values than with a free-agent deal.
Of course, both sides have to agree to the deal and be motivated to get something done, which is why extension talks have gone nowhere so far.
“I still feel super young,” Bryant told Gordon Wittenmyer back in May of 2017. “I’m still getting used to all of this playing at this level. I’ll listen to whatever they have to say, but I just think that it might be in my best interest to just play it out and see where things go.’’
Jon Heyman noted in November 2017 that the Cubs were using Mike Trout’s six-year, $144 million pact with the Angels as a jumping-off point and that they’d even prefer to push it out longer. So let’s say they were talking about something like 7/$170M, which would be $24.3 AAV. That’s roughly double what Bryant figures to earn this season.
But according to what David Kaplan shared on ESPN 1000 recently, the Cubs actually went even bigger.
“Whispers are telling me that the Cubs approached Scott Boras to do a massive extension with Kris Bryant in the last several months. And it was turned down by Bryant and Boras,” Kaplan said.
“I was told that the Cubs’ offer was more than fair, well north of $200 million. Not enough.”
That is quite the bombshell if it’s indeed true, which I don’t believe is the case. A source with knowledge of the situation told Cubs Insider the rumor was a complete fabrication (not by Kaplan, but by whomever whispered in his ear) and said that Bryant had not turned down such an offer, though the specifics of whether and what the Cubs are really willing to do remains unclear.
Exactly how much is “well north” and over how many years was this reported offer (I’d guess eight or nine years at $210-220)? And what are we talking about in terms of timing? The calculus was a lot different back in March than it is now following Bryant’s shoulder injury. All indications are that he’ll be perfectly healthy and back to his old self next season, but $200+ million has to look pretty juicy given how closely acquainted he got to athletic mortality this season.
The idea of an extension for Bryant is something that’s sure to come up again this winter, with the chances of an agreement being reached probably better now than they’ve ever been. In addition to Bryant’s health, this monster free-agent class will set a better baseline for exactly what kind of money Boras is going to be looking for. Then again, Bryant’s still got three years of control left and the Cubs may want more assurances as far as the shoulder is concerned.
Long story short, Bryant has not turned down a huge deal from the Cubs and he’s just focused on getting back to being healthy and having fun playing baseball. And extension or no, he’s still a Cub for another three seasons. Well, unless Kaplan’s correct in theorizing that the Cubs could trade the third baseman if they can’t extend him. I see that as only slightly more plausible than the idea that he turned down a massive extension, though.