We learned a little while back that the Cubs “got nowhere” when it came to extension talks with Kris Bryant and their other young stars, but now the MVP has opened up a bit more about his thoughts on the matter.
“I still feel super young,” Bryant told Gordon Wittenmyer recently. “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.’’
The only thing newsworthy about this is the fact that Bryant was vocal about it at all, since the idea of him holding off on a long-term deal only makes all the sense in the world. The MVP’s statement echoes that of fellow stud infielder Carlos Correa, who also said that he’d be willing to listen to potential offers but that he was content to ride out what figures to be a series of massive raises through his arbitration years.
As we noted in discussing Addison Russell’s value, the key to this whole thing will be the upcoming free agent class headed by Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, etc. There’s no way Scott Boras is even thinking about talking turkey with Bryant until after they know where the market is headed and what makes sense to look for in a longer deal. Besides, Bryant’s already the highest-paid second-year player ever.
And while his $1.05 million salary is nothing short of highway robbery when measured against the value he brings to the Cubs, Bryant isn’t hurting for endorsement deals that only figure to increase in size and number as his popularity continues to grow. That’s part of the whole thing too, above and beyond the exceptional skills and statistical production he brings to the team. Bryant’s makeup is worth a lot to any team all on its own.
But even looking at on-paper value alone, Bryant will be able to command top-of-the-market money when the time comes. After putting up 6.6 and 8.4 fWAR in his first two seasons, respectively, the reigning NL MVP is on pace to match his sophomore campaign with another 155 games played. Using a rough estimate of $8 million in value for each win added, that’s around $67 million per season. And when you consider that Bryant is only now heading into his prime, well, wow.
That doesn’t mean the guy’s going to be looking for a half-billion-dollar contract, though the potential for a deal that exceeds Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million pact with the Marlins is well within reason. In fact, we could be looking at something in the neighborhood of $350 – 400 million if it’s spread out over 10 years or more. Even if an agreement was reached to buy out all of his arbitration years, Bryant probably won’t accept as much of a discount as other players might.
As a Super-Two player, Bryant can have as many as four years of arbitration, each of which figures to bring him sizable raises. In fact, I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say that he’ll be setting more salary records over the next few years. Machado went from $548 thousand to $5 million in 2016, then to $11.5 million this year. Bryant’s already sitting at twice that initial figure and should surpass both of the latter marks in the future.
David Price made nearly $20 million when he set the arbitration payday mark back in 2015 with the Tigers, a figure that isn’t all that far removed from the AAV of a potential Bryant extension. I mean, yeah, $10-15 million is a big difference in one season, but it washes out when you spread it out over the life of a contract.
Unless the Cubs come to the table with a monster bigger than the one Bryant just blasted two home runs over this weekend, there’s just no earthly reason for him to talk extension for at least two more years. Once deals are reached with fellow stud third basemen like Machado and Donaldson and Bryant has gotten a couple arb raises, not to mention further establishing his own value independent from those factors, we’ll have a much better idea of where the market stands.
And by “we,” I really mean the Cubs and Bryant’s camp. It’s clear that the rising star enjoys the city and the team and I’m guessing he’d tell you he’d love to be a Cub for life, but you don’t hire Boras — who also represents Russell and Harper — just to help you navigate team-friendly deals with all kinds of hometown discounts. The super-agent isn’t about to let his client settle early without getting a better lay of the land, nor should he.
Just know that even in the worst case scenario for Cubs fans, Kris Bryant will be with the team for another four seasons. Okay, I guess there’s an even worse case, but we won’t think about that right now. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts. Also know that if the Cubs do eventually agree to a long-term deal with the kid who’s got the baby blues and beautiful uppercut swing, whatever that amount might be in the end, it’ll be worth it.