Dave Kaplan just dropped a bomb on ESPN1000 today, reporting that he’s heard from a source that the Cubs approached Kris Bryant and his agent Scott Boras “in the last several months” about a “massive extension” worth “well north of $200 million.” That extension was – again, according to the source – turned down by Bryant and Boras, who preferred instead to go year-to-year in arbitration.
Without more particulars on the offer itself, it’s hard to comment too specifically on whether Bryant should or should not have accepted – and it’s also unclear exactly when the offer was in relation to Bryant’s shoulder injury – but, generally speaking, I’m a conservative dude. If you have “well north of $200 million” on the table, I think it’s really hard to argue that turning it down is a good idea. Bryant, you’ll note, will not be a free agent until his age 30 season. Even if he rebounds next year and turns in three straight KRIS BRYANT seasons, it’s fair to wonder just how much he’ll get at that point. Certainly more than $200 million (plus he’ll have gotten three more healthy arbitration years). But there’s also a whole lot of risk in waiting, as this season demonstrated.
That all said, by the time Bryant is tendered a contract this winter, he will have already locked in upwards of $30 million in career earnings already, when you consider his signing bonus, his pre-arbitration years, and his two arbitration years. Throw in lots of endorsements, and this is not a young man who is awaiting life-changing money. He’s already got it. So if you’re confident and want to maybe set some records (and help shift the overall pay in the game up for your fellow players), then you bet on yourself. I’m not going to criticize Bryant for rolling the dice just because I am personally a nervous, bird-in-hand kind of guy.
What I find most interesting about this report, if true, is that the Cubs were themselves looking to lock Bryant down right now to a massive deal. Keep in mind, as he gets raises in arbitration, making long-term plans for AAV/luxury tax purposes can be really tricky, let alone planning to lose a superstar in a few years. Perhaps were the Cubs trying to have a little more payroll certainty heading into this landmark free agent class … ?
Also, obviously, it demonstrates the Cubs’ commitment to, and belief in, Bryant. He’s a star, and that’s the kind of offer you make to an in-house star. (It also would have had the effect of ending the lingering service time grievance, which, to date, has not been publicly resolved.)
I tentatively expect we’ll hear more about this over the course of the offseason, and I also expect we’ll hear about the Cubs approaching other young players about extensions. They have yet to pull one off with this core group (the 2014-and-up) crew, and, as I said, it’s going to be important to do it if they want to have maximum comfort spending aggressively in free agency in the coming year/years.
Kaplan also then discussed Bryant as a trade piece for the Cubs if he’s not going to sign an extension, but I’ll leave it to you all if you want to discuss that. From where I sit, with three more years of control over a guy who could be one of the best five players in the game – while in a very competitive window – there’s just no chance on earth the Cubs consider trading Bryant right now. So, I don’t really see that as a productive conversation.