The Cubs have a boatload of impending free agents after 2021, but the three who get the most attention when it comes to extension talk are Kris Bryant, Javy Báez, and Anthony Rizzo. I would think the reasons are obvious, given the importance of the players and the longstanding tenure.
Cubs President Jed Hoyer has suggested Spring Training is a good time for extension talks, and we’re now well into Spring Training, so … que pasa? Anything brewing?
Well, we don’t have any clear signal to the affirmative on any of these guys, but Bryant has revealed that, at least as far as his situation goes, there’s nothing brewing. He did so while also acknowledging that the future – his time in Chicago – is still an unknown. Via The Athletic:
After years of talking about change, it actually happened with Yu Darvish traded to the Padres and Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester signing with the Nationals. The Bryant talks were essentially tabled until the trade deadline, depending on how the team performs.
“There is no countdown in my mind,” Bryant said. “My mind is clear. I’m here. I’m present. I enjoy the new faces around me. I enjoy my time at home. It’s a good feeling. I like to see fans in the stands again, fans lined up here, hopefully being safe. I’m not looking at it as my last year. Who knows what year it could be? I could have 10 more years here. Who knows? I could come back as a coach. I could live in Chicago. I don’t know.”
Are you saying your “camp” — Bryant thought that sounded funny when he used that word during a recent Zoom conference — is discussing a contract extension?
“No, I’m not,” Bryant said. “There hasn’t been anything. I’ve just been really focused on working on some things out here and having good at-bats in the game. But, yeah, there hasn’t been anything on my end. You’ll be the first one to know.”
So, no talks yet with Bryant. That’s about as plain and clear as it gets.
Finding a price tag that makes sense for both the Cubs and for Bryant has long been the real challenge here, and Bryant’s injuries and flukey down 2020 season made things all the more difficult. It’s very easy for me to imagine a price point that makes sense for the Cubs being far too low for Bryant not to just say, meh, I’d rather see what happens this year and bet on myself in free agency. Bryant’s peak level performance is SO high that if he signs based on what he’s been healthy enough to show the last few years, he could wind up signing away his best remaining years for 50 cents on the dollar. Some guys would still do that for the security associated with nine figures, but Bryant has already made a lot of money in his career. And hitting free agency next year for his age 30 season, he might have only one crack at really putting together a big contract opportunity. Since the Cubs are highly unlikely to pay him top-tier free agent dollars right at this moment – with all due love, there’s still whole lotta performance risk there – it’s hard to see a meeting of the minds.
We’ve talked about how there’s a relationship between the trio of players and the extension talks, as the Cubs are unlikely to ink all three of Bryant, Báez, and Rizzo to long-term deals. How you navigate that relationship is a tricky thing, since it’s not solely about picking which guy you want to talk to first because you want him most (i.e., you might prefer This Guy at Price X, but That Guy at Price Y). And yet you do have to order things in some way.
That is all to say, is the fact that the Cubs aren’t yet engaging Bryant on extension talks a sign that they prefer him least among the trio? Not necessarily. Both for the reasons I just said – it could simply be an order-of-operations, navigating-the-interrelated-nature thing – and also because maybe they haven’t started talking to anyone yet. (And none of this is to say anything about the expiring CBA, and how you talk long-term deals with guys in such an uncertain long-term environment.)
All we know for sure is that, as of this week, the talks with Bryant on an extension have not taken place.