We’ve talked about extensions for young Cubs talent on and off this offseason as other players around the league have been extended (fewer than usual, don’t you think? Just seems that way to me). With arbitration still a couple years away for most of the crew, it is unlikely that a major extension is looming at this time, but it is certainly still possible.
(Of course, the Cubs did extend one arbitration-level player this spring, but it was a mild surprise in Pedro Strop, who got another year of security in 2018, and the Cubs picked up an option in 2019.)
If the Cubs did look to extend one of the members of their young core, you can bet that reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant would be the priciest of the bunch.
At ESPN, Craig Edwards took a look at extending a number of young stars around the game, including some of the biggest and brightest: Mookie Betts, Carlos Correa, Noah Syndergaard, and Francisco Lindor, among others. Kris Bryant, though, comes in for the biggest hypothetical extension.
To Edwards’ credit, he recognizes – like we do – the unlikelihood of an extension for Bryant right now. The 25-year-old is already impossibly good, could get even better, and banked a near $7 million signing bonus out of the draft. Even if Bryant doesn’t reach free agency until after the 2021 season*, he will get four extremely lucrative cracks at arbitration before then – starting next year – and could be all too happy to play things out until free agency.
How much would it take to turn his head? The 13-year, $325 million Giancarlo Stanton extension is the benchmark to which Edwards points, given their ages and abilities (Bryant figures to earn more in arbitration, but he is also behind Stanton in service time when they were the same age). Top that deal slightly, and maybe you’d have something. I’d point out that Stanton’s deal also includes an opt out after the first six seasons, though it is so heavily backloaded that opting out, even if he’s still raking, might not be a great idea.
The other deal to which you might point is the Mike Trout extension, which bought out three arbitration years and three free agent years for $144.5 million. The tricky comparison there, though, is that Trout was three years younger than Bryant is now, and had established himself as *the* best player in baseball. I still think that kind of shorter-term extension for Bryant, however, would have to be in the Trout range, or maybe even exceed it, especially given that most saw the Trout deal as a bargain at the time it was signed.
In any case, you get the gist: extending Kris Bryant in the near future would almost certainly require a top-of-the-market extension, and might not make for the right fit for these two sides. The Cubs will control Bryant for a pre-arbitration year in 2017, and then four arbitration years through 2021. Extending him right now is not necessarily a matter of significant urgency, especially if doing so will require committing free agent level dollars five years in advance.
Instead, both sides might be content to get into those arbitration years, perhaps a couple years away from free agency, and then engage in more serious discussions about an extension.
*(Remember, the service time grievance is possibly still ongoing, though service time issues were not addressed at all – that we know of – in the new CBA. Our presumption right now is that Bryant will not get a full year of credit for 2015 when all is said and done (thus, free agency after 2021), but it’s still theoretically possible that it could change.)