Well, isn’t this interesting? The Cubs have just given Kris Bryant a record $1.05 million contract for a pre-arbitration player, beating the record deal the Angels gave Mike “Clark Kent” Trout before the 2013 season by $50,000.
It was a fairly obvious move — the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in more than 100 years and Bryant won the Senior Circuit’s MVP Award, so a record-setting contract was obviously called for. Even so, the Cubbies only gave Bryant enough to be able to say he broke the record.
The Cubs’ decision to keep Bryant in the minors a lot longer than his performance in the minors said was the time for his call-up, so the team could hold onto his rights for the 2021 season, was pretty bush and penny-wise and pound-foolish, at least in my opinion. Everybody in MLB knew what the Cubs were doing, and Bryant would be crazy not to stick it to the Cubs every chance he gets from now until he signs his first free agent contract.
Still, it’s worked out well for the Cubs so far. They weren’t going to win in 2015 even with another eight games from Bryant, and they won the very next year, when the team was clearly better than the 2015 squad.
The Cubs pretty much had to give Bryant the current record-setting deal, because that’s what his 2016 performance and the World Series win required. They gave him only exactly as much as the standard of the industry required and no more, because they know that Bryant and his agent Scott Boras aren’t going to think that an extra $300,000 for the 2017 season a fair trade for reaching free agency a year later.
In this sense, things are as they should be. Yes, the Cubs screwed Bryant, but this way Bryant has to continue to develop the way everyone hopes he will (except maybe Cardinals’ fans) and the Cubs win another World Series in the next five years. Then the Cubs will have pretty much no choice but to give Bryant a record-setting free agent deal. Even the most money-ball of money-ball organizations has to know that Cubs’ fans would be unbelievably disappointed if the team trades the next Mike Schmidt and Ron Santo rolled into one, particularly now that MLB teams all know how much power-hitting, slick fielding 3Bman are really worth.
Right now, one has to think that the only things standing between Bryant and record-setting free agent contract is a freak injury or that his big size (6’5″, 230 lbs) leads to wear-and-tear injuries in 2020 or 2021.