I will caveat this right up front with the fact that we don’t know what discussions took place between the front office and his agent, and how the team might call something an “offer” and an agent might not. So don’t go TOO over the top with your reactions.
But this is still pretty darn notable within the context of whatever happened over the years between the Cubs and Kris Bryant (and perhaps others, too, though we know extension offers were more recent for Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo). In response to Cubs President Jed Hoyer’s comments about how and why and when extensions didn’t happen with the core before they were traded last week, Bryant spoke with NBC Sports Chicago and The Athletic. Lots in each article to read beyond the comments we’ll discuss, so I’d encourage you to check them out.
Bryant, who has always been thoughtful and kind and straightforward, offered praise for his former front office. That, too, is an important caveat to his response. But the response about the extension talks was pretty clear, and it paints a very different picture from what we’ve heard before (emphasis added):
“I kind of felt like it was always out there, like, ‘Hey, we’re constantly trying to get an extension done’ and stuff like that. And in reality that didn’t happen. There were conversations after 2016 and then after that, it was like, nothing. I was always open to hearing, and I’ve always said that. But there was just wasn’t anything after that …. At the end of the day, like Jed said, he puts his head on the pillow at night and, you know, I know that I gave it my all and I was always willing to listen to anything. And at the end of the day, we had conversations after 2016 and that was it. So that’s just where I’m at. And like I keep saying, there’s no hard feelings. I’ve had great, unbelievable memories there. And, you know, just I look back and it’s like it’s some of the happiest moments of my life, and nothing can change that.”
You may recall that there were reports of a $200+ million offer at some point in mid-2018, reports that Bryant and others refuted. His comments here would also seem to be a clear refutation. I believe him that, after that spring, the Cubs never made another formal extension offer to Bryant, and that tracks with our general sense on the outside for the last few years that an extension was simply not going to happen. Efforts were not there to really try to hammer out a new deal.
But again, you wonder about what counts as an offer, what counts as conversations, and so on and so on. Notably, Buster Olney separately reported just last year that there had been a $200-ish million concept floated (to Scott Boras? was it clear no deal could come together at that level?), but it didn’t go anywhere. I tend to think he’s not just pulling that completely out of nowhere, and the most logical explanation is that there was very high-level, very rough, very general discussion, but it was clear the sides weren’t even going to be close enough to actually get to “conversations” or an “offer.”
That, in turn, squares with something Bryant told NBC and The Athletic. Both Bryant and Hoyer can be right in their own minds: “Well, in his mind, he’s going to be right, and then maybe in ours, he will be wrong,” Bryant said. “And it’s OK to disagree and then you just move on from there.”
That’s likely where the conversation is left. My takeaway from the situation – even before the latest round of comments – was that Bryant was not going to sign an undermarket extension for a variety of reasons (he cares about moving the ball forward for other players, he had already made a ton of money, and he wanted to bet on himself in free agency). And the Cubs, for their part, were interested in signing him only to an undermarket extension (as is the case with almost all teams when they have a player under team control – who pays free agent prices on an extension multiple years before free agency?). I think the service time stuff didn’t help. I think the efforts to trade Bryant over the last two years probably didn’t help either, though I understand the Cubs’ thinking on that one, given that no extension was happening.
This separation, if not Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez, had felt inevitable for years. I’ve said it for years. And to me, Hoyer’s and Bryant’s comments only serve to underscore that they both knew – in his particular case – that a deal wasn’t going to come together. And each might be a little perturbed about that, but that’s another thing I have said for years: the deal that was going to make sense for the Cubs to sign a couple years ago might not have made sense for Bryant to sign (and vice versa). That’s just kinda the way this one was.
I hope Bryant kicks ass for the Giants, and then gets himself a huge deal in free agency from whatever team steps up to offer it. No sense in rooting for anything else at this point.