Sources: Cubs Didn't Offer Bryant $200 Million-Plus

All indications are that Kris Bryant is headed for free agency after 2021.

Bruce Levine
October 11, 2018 - 2:07 pm
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant

Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports

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(670 The Score) The truth about the contract extension terms that the Cubs have offered third baseman Kris Bryant in recent months and years is proving to be elusive and different from source to source.

On Wednesday, David Kaplan of ESPN indicated on his radio show that the Cubs had offered Bryant a long-term extension in excess of $200 million in the past several months, which Bryant turned down. That was since refuted in the reporting of Sahadev Sharma of the Athletic.

So what actually happened? The Cubs have offered Bryant a contract extension previously, but the $200 million-plus aspect that's been suggested is off the mark, multiple sources told 670 The Score. The information regarding the Cubs trying to sign Bryant to an extension in each of the past two offseasons is accurate, sources confirmed.

But in reality, the money differences just haven't aligned in Bryant's situation. A client of powerful agent Scott Boras, the 26-year-old Bryant is under team control through 2021 and has long appeared on a path toward testing free agency ahead of the 2022 season. Even if the Cubs were to offer -- for example -- an eight-year deal in the neighborhood of $200 million, it probably wouldn't be enough to lock in Bryant, who was the National League MVP in 2016. After all, an average annual value in the $25-million range isn't that much more than that of Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, who's netting $23 million annually on an eight-year deal that he signed in December 2015.

The Cubs have previously been trying to sign young position players in their core such as Bryant, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and others to favorable long-term deals, sources said. The thought process behind that approach is to provide the player money more in their first three years of the new deal than what they'd net in the arbitration process, with the team saving money by avoiding a superstar salary payments on the back end of the contracts.

That was the method the Cubs used in signing first baseman Anthony Rizzo to a seven-year, $41-million in 2013. His deal includes two team options that could extend the contract through 2021. By virtue of signing that deal, Rizzo was the 11th-highest paid Cubs player in 2018 after the team's acquisition of left-hander Cole Hamels and second baseman Daniel Murphy. After reaching a $10.85-million salary figure in the arbitration process last winter, Bryant was paid about $3.8 million more than Rizzo in 2018 despite having having three fewer years of service time.

The Cubs will likely end up paying around Rizzo around $72 million for the nine seasons between 2013 and 2021, assuming they pick up the two team options. Rizzo would've been a free agent this offseason if he hadn't accepted that deal back in 2013. A conservative estimate of Rizzo's value on the open market now would be a five-year deal around $125 million, meaning the Cubs saved a great deal of money by locking him up at a young age.

Such cost assurance is valued by executives but can also be tricky to obtain or backfire in some cases. In the Cubs' case, it's difficult to project whether they'll be able to afford the likes of Bryant, Baez and Willson Contreras down the line if they pursue free agents like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado this winter. Both of them are expected to command deals worth in the range of $300 million or more.

The Cubs are a wealthy franchise but also know they must be cost-conscious to avoid paying large luxury tax penalties in the future. Economic predictability and stability are two key components to building a sustainable winner, and that's what the Cubs are hoping to accomplish. They only control so much of the process though, as the case of Bryant illustrates.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.​