Tuesday ended up having something of a Kris Bryant theme here at Cubs Insider, largely as an outgrowth of the third baseman’s recent discussions with the media. He talked over the weekend about using criticism for motivation, then lamented the “money grab” of MLB’s time-service loopholes that led to his own delayed promotion in 2015.
And when Nolan Arenado agreed to an eight-year, $260 million extension with the Rockies, there was even more reason to circle back to Bryant. There’s been this fallacious notion from the moment Bryant learned that he’d be assigned to Iowa to open the 2015 season that he and agent Scott Boras would never give the team a chance to re-sign him. And while that’s been reinforced to some extent by his unwillingness to talk extension, it’s simply not the case.
Bryant wasn’t pleased with his individual circumstances and he’s still upset about the system as a whole, but he’s far too intelligent to be making decisions aimed at exacting a measure of vengeance. As the Cubs’ union rep, he’s perhaps even more acutely aware of the business side of the game. That means putting himself in the best position to take advantage of his cachet, including salary and off-field opportunities.
At the end of the day, though, Bryant is primarily concerned with playing baseball and winning games. He’s got Boras in his corner so he doesn’t have to bother with all the business stuff, but that doesn’t mean he is ceding all control of future negotiations. Nor does it mean he would decline to listen should the Cubs come to him with a huge offer.
Jesse Rogers addressed just that when he joined Carmen and Jurko Tuesday afternoon from Mesa. Rogers had talked with David Kaplan and Jordan Cornette about the same topic earlier in the day, but the balding beat writer had gotten a chance to speak with Bryant just five minutes before the latter radio hit.
“He said, ‘Absolutely,’” Rogers said of Bryant’s response to a question about accepting an offer like Arenado’s. “Now, he said it like, ‘That’s a great deal, how could anybody turn it down?’ Yet we know that if this was Theo and Scott, ‘Absolutely’ may not be the answer.
“He was absolutely impressed by 255 (million dollars) and eight (years). I think he understands if he doesn’t say yes to that, he sounds selfish. But I don’t know if it was presented in front of him if he actually would, or if Scott Boras would.”
That’s the real key here, since Boras isn’t exactly known for working out team-friendly deals with hometown discounts. His M.O. is to get his players to free agency and to then extract as much money as possible. One notable exception is Stephen Strasburg, whose seven-year, $175 million extension with the Nationals ahead of the 2016 season made sense for a pitcher with a history of arm issues.
Some think Boras is what’s wrong with free agency, what with his bombastic speeches and high contract demands. But in the end, he’s just trying to do right by his clients. And in Bryant’s case, that could mean getting away from his standard practice.
“Kris made a point of saying to me, and he said it exactly like this: ‘I want to reiterate that I’m the client, I’m the guy in charge,'” Rogers explained. “Now I’m paraphrasing: ‘I’m the guy that Scott has to listen to.'”
Whoa, Bryant is putting his cleat down a little bit and I like it. He’s right about that, too, because an agent’s job isn’t just to feed his own ego and bank account. Those things will come if he’s serving his clients’ best interests, but it’s a matter of keeping priorities in order.
“I think Bryant would be willing to play ball if Scott will listen to him, and vice versa,” Rogers concluded.
If you were here at CI earlier or if you clicked the links above, you probably saw those exact sentiments expressed. Even before anything had come out regarding the Arenado deal, I wrote that Bryant would sign an extension tomorrow should Theo Epstein approach him with a figure that makes sense. I firmly believe that is true, though there are mitigating factors.
Bryant would be making a lot more money this year than the $12.9 million he’ll earn through arbitration had he inked an extension last year, except the total deal would have been far less. The shoulder injury that cost him much of the season limited his production and clouded projections, so both sides really needed to wait for him to display good health. And if that drives the price way up, so be it.
Either way, the Arenado extension looks like a solid blueprint for what the Cubs should be trying to work out with Bryant. And it might even tell us a little something about how a pair of Bryant’s arb-eligible teammates could be looking to approach things.
Colorado’s third baseman is represented by the Wasserman Group, which counts both Javy Baez and Kyle Hendricks among its clientele. Neither is likely to command the figures we’ve been talking about to this point, but the idea is that both are likely open to signing extensions. Or at least they’re more likely to do so than Boras clients, which I guess isn’t really saying much.
But Bryant isn’t the average Boras client and now he’s offered at least a glimmer of hope than extension can be worked out prior to his free agency in 2022. Just don’t go thinking we’ll see something announced this spring, as all parties involved are still going to want to see how things go this season.