Last week, the Chicago Cubs agreed to a record pre-arbitration contract with reigning NL NVP Kris Bryant. The number isn’t eye-popping – $1.05 million for the 2017 season – but it is the highest ever for a player at Bryant’s service time level, when a team still has the ability to pay a player whatever it pleases.
Although this kind of goodwill gesture won’t, alone, buy a team-friendly extension or anything like that, it doesn’t go unnoticed by the players. And player attitudes and happiness is probably important in ways we can’t yet quantify.
“I felt like I earned it,” Bryant told the Tribune about the contract. “I felt like just seeing where I fall with guys that were in my situation, I feel respected. It’s nice.”
Bryant did earn it, and deserves to feel respected. The last thing you’d want if you were the Cubs would be for Bryant to feel like the organization is taking him for granted, given his importance over the next five years. (And given the service time issues that popped up in 2015.)
For Bryant, getting a little extra in 2017 could mean more down the road. With the $1.05 million contract on the books for 2017, Bryant is now set up for some very lucrative trips through arbitration in the next four seasons (he’ll be a Super Two player, eligible for four trips through arbitration, rather than just three). Because arbitration considers – in addition to performance and precedent – a player’s past salary, this deal actually will wind up making Bryant extra dollars in each of the next four years, not just 2017.
Not every team treats their pre-arbitration stars this way, but, for the Cubs, it’s better to reward the players and engender goodwill, even if it costs a little more money down the line.