October 11, 2018


Multiple reports having Kris Bryant turning down a $200 million extension offer from the Cubs.

Bryant's agent, Scott Boras, is looking for his MVP winner in three years to hit the open market. A market, which two years ago, thought Bryce Harper would potentially reach the $400 million mark. But Boras and other top agents hit the wall last season when the free agent market tanked on star players. Harper's market value has plummeted with the misfortunes of the Nationals. Being a diva and not a five tool player has hurt Harper's valuation. But the market makers, the large big budget teams, are now more concerned about staying under the luxury tax or spending caps to bankrupt their draft picks and international pool money.

For the Cubs to even offer Bryant such a deal after his weak 2018 campaign is telling; someone in management thinks the Cubs window of opportunity for championships is longer than three years. But to offer any player $200 million is a risky proposition. Bryant has had various injuries that kept him out of the lineup for 60 games. Most troublesome is a shoulder injury for which rest did not help. It screwed up his batting mechanics to the point where he became a weak singles hitter. The Cubs do not need another .275 BA, big money singles hitter (i.e. Heyward.)

Player salaries continued to rocket northward from 2009 to 2016. In 2009 free agency, a star player would receive approximately $1.3 million/WAR. By 2012, the value increased to $3.3 million. It peaked around $6 million/WAR. Last off-season, J.D. Martinez had a 4.2 WAR. He was one of the few power hitting free agents. After a long wait, Boston signed him for decrease in his asking price, around $5.6 million/WAR. Other free agents got less.

Bryant and his agent are still miffed that their grievance on manipulating service time cost Bryant an earlier escape into free agency. But the Cubs did pay him more money than the minimum prior to arbitration eligibility. The Cubs have paid record arb awards to Bryant. He will make from $14 to 16 million in 2019. If you look at Martinez's Red Sox valuation, Bryant only had 1.9 WAR in 2018. That would equate to only a $10.4 million 2019 salary. Bryant's 2019 salary is still based on "talent" and not "performance," something Theo Epstein was in general bitter about his team during the post-season press conference. He had earned a record for a first-year arbitration-eligible player $10.85 million in 2018.

To offer Bryant $20 million/year extension means that the Cubs would not exercise the option on Hamels. The team would have to shed more money to keep under the salary cap, probably packaging Russell ($3 million), Schwarber ($1.3 million) and Chatwood ($12.5 million) in order to pay for Bryant's extension. All three of those Cub players are at their lowest trade value. They may have gone stale from their prospect-scouting talent projections based on recent performance.

Boras may still be misreading the future of MLB. The bottom of the market could crash in the next three years because MLB cannot count on a billion dollar national television deal. MLB teams cannot reasonably believe they will get a billion dollar windfall by creating their own Yankee network or Dodgers channel because cable operators are bleeding to death by cord cutters who refuse to pay for sports channels. Boras and other agents may think smart owners may cash out their investment in the next few years so some new rich guy will come to the table ready to spend money for "star" players.  So the odds are that Bryant will take a dangerous jog down the path of free agency.