I always figured Kris Bryant would be a later signing in the offseason, but I hadn’t given deep thought yet to why I was making that assumption. I guess the combination of an expectation that he’d be pushing for a significant contract, his agent Scott Boras being comfortable taking things very late in the offseason, and conflict you’ll hear out there in just how highly to value Bryant on his next contract?
Anyway, the thing is, with things getting so bonkers over the last 24 hours, I no longer think I know anything at all about who will sign when. So I’m on high alert for pretty much any signing to drop, and the first former Cub – you know the group I’m talking about – to sign with a new team is gonna be a weird moment. If it happens for Bryant over the next, what, 12 hours, it figures to be the Mariners or the Phillies:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 29, 2021
Bryant, who will play next year at age 30 and does not come attached to a qualifying offer, has been connected to the Phillies for years in trade rumors, and has been connected to the Mariners periodically this offseason already. He makes plenty of sense for both teams in a lot of ways, and the only real question is whether they’re ready to drop a huge offer right now or if they want to wait.
Valuing Bryant has been made difficult by his injury history, his uneven defense at third, his bizarre 2020 season, and offensive production the last four seasons combined that would place him only in the “pretty darn good” tier, rather than elite (.268/.363/.479, 124 wRC+). It was easy to defend the upside as a Cubs fan, and I’m probably stuck on that idea for that reason (I just feel like he can and will be much better over the next few years), but if you’re an outsider taking a critical evaluation to Bryant as a free agent, I’m not so sure you’re eager to drop the 5+ year, $150+ million-type contract. The defensive versatility is great as a feature, but how good has he actually been defensively? The injury issues were often flukey and seemingly have been resolved, but how confident are you that they all suddenly go away in his 30s? And on and on.
I tend to think he still gets a pretty sizable contract, but I’m not sure it’s going to be one we look at and say, oh wow, that’s a monster.
There is no realistic chance Bryant returns to the Cubs, so you should take that off your mental radar. Instead, what’s interesting about his situation going forward is more or less what it is for all compelling free agents: how much does he get and where does he land? Also, he was a key Cub for so long that I can’t just stop being interested in his future.