The Cuban third baseman will become a free agent after the 2021 season unless an extension is agreed to. With the former National League MVP seemingly completely resigned to what might happen in the future, what real results might fans see between Bryant and the organization that trained him?
In my head, there is no countdown. My mind is clear. I’m here. I am present… It’s a good feeling… Who knows what year it is? I could have lived here for 10 more years. Who knows? I can come back and coach. I could live in Chicago. I don’t know.
– Kris Bryant on his future with the Cubs.
In short, the odds are slim for many reasons. First, Scott Boras, Chris Bryant’s agent, is known to be tough on teams. The Cubs may not even offer Bryant an extension, but if they do, expect Boras and his team to reject the offer initially.
He may even have some baggage left over from 2015, when the Cubs drafted Bryant just days after the deadline, which would have counted against his hours this season.
Also, the Ricketts family has been a seller, selling players like Yu Darvish and not contracting players like John Lester for less money. COWID-19 brought some benefits to the Cubs, as the money spent on hospitality development around Wrigley Field generated minimal revenue due to the pandemic.
On top of that, the future of the Cubs on the field is in doubt. Almost half of the Open House team could become free agents next winter, including Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo. Who’s extending the Cubs? I don’t think they can/will extend the trio of Rizzo, Baez and Bryant.
Will Bryant stay healthy enough for an extension? Will the Cubs prove they’re good enough to keep the lineup from blowing up after this season?
There are just too many unknowns on both sides to think an extension will be around before the end of the season. The only way that can happen is if Bryant produces MVP-worthy numbers again and the Cubs win the division. Even then, Boras will play hardball and demand that his client test the free market.
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If the deal doesn’t get finalized this season, Bryant will become a free agent. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t stay on the north side.
Bryant could have a season like 2020 full of injuries and low production. This scenario will likely lead to the end of Bryant’s time in Chicago.
Either the Cubs will be good without Bryant – meaning Baez and Rizzo will be much better than they were in their 2020 seasons – and Bryant is the odd man out – or the Cubs can have a bad season, miss the playoffs and blow it, meaning Jed Hoyer and co. Bryant might not even offer a contract.
If Bryant has an above-average year like 2019 (31 HR, .903 OPS, 4.8 WAR), the Cubs will certainly consider offering him a new contract based on the performance of the rest of the team.
If the Cubs have a slow start and realize they are not a contender, it would be easy to trade a productive Bryant for a contender midway through the season. The Cubs’ ability to rebound and compete for the division title will depend largely on the team’s and Bryant’s performance in the playoffs, which has left much to be desired in recent seasons.
In analyzing third basemen who have recently become free agents, I looked at Anthony Rendon and compared his performance to Bryant’s. I specifically analyzed Rendon’s last three seasons before he signed with the Angels. I’ve also analyzed Bryant’s last three seasons, with the exception of 2020.
Bryant’s performance in 2020 was mediocre, but he was injured and the season was so weird due to COVID-19 that I decided to leave those stats out.
Rendon eventually signed a seven-year, $245 million contract with the Angels.
You can see that Rendon has dominated every major category, and Bryant should improve on his 2016 NL MVP season to get closer to Rendon’s three-year average after 2021.
The first thing to dissect is the length of the deal, which is largely determined by age and injury history. Bryant will be 30 when he hits free water, the same age Rendon was when he signed a contract with the Angels. Rendon got seven years and Bryant probably won’t get more, mostly due to injuries. I’d say he’ll probably be offered a five or six year contract.
The next and most important criterion is the amount of money. Rendon landed on $35 million a year, though he’s not paid equally over the length of the contract.
Sure, Rendon’s status got a boost from winning a championship in 2019, but in my opinion Bryant would have to be a top 2-3 player in the MVP race and lead the Cubs to a deep playoff run to even come close to that kind of change.
Bryant is one of the best third basemen in the league, especially at the plate, but he hasn’t proven he can stay consistently healthy and has regressed from his two best years in 2016 and 2017.
I think Bryant will be offered a six-year contract at around $28-30 million per year if he has an above-average season, probably in the high teens in 2019 (4.8 WAR).
What happens to Kris Bryant and the Cubs will depend on his and the team’s performance this season. All I can say is that I hope to see a QB in a Cubs jersey throughout his career, because that means he and the Cubs have had a lot of success in 2021.
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