By Bruce Levine–
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — Coming off an MVP season and just 25 years old, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant knows the lucrative contract offers will be awaiting him down the line.
“The money may be fun to think about,” Bryant told 670 The Score. “When I practice or in a game, it never crosses my mind. You want to do well, but it never crosses my mind when I am playing.”
On Thursday, Bryant set a pre-arbitration salary record when the Cubs front office agreed to pay him $1.05 million for 2017, which topped the $1 million Angels star outfielder Mike Trout earned in 2014. The motivation for the Cubs to pay more than $500,000 more than they had to is interesting to dissect. Bryant certainly earned it with his 2016 MVP season and leading role in helping the Cubs to a World Series title.
This financial decision by the Cubs also comes two years after they waited a couple weeks into the 2015 season to call Bryant up from the minor leagues to start his big league journey, a move that delayed his free-agent clock — and thus big-money earning potential — by a season. While that decision was logical, it also was criticized by some, notably Bryant’s powerful agent, Scott Boras.
“I see this as them respecting me and what I have done,” Bryant said of the $1.05 million salary figure. “At the same time, I feel I have earned it, that is in terms of being evaluated on what I have done. Sure, it is nice and exciting, but money has never been anything I think about. It is more a byproduct of doing what I am supposed to do.”
Bryant is under team control through 2021 and will be eligible for arbitration after this season, a status that will cause his annual salary to jump considerably. In an ideal scenario, the Cubs would like to sign Bryant to an early long-term deal soon. That’s what the Angels did with Trout in March 2014, when he signed a six-year, $144-million extension that bought out all of his arbitration years plus two seasons of free agency.
Bryant will encounter extremely lucrative offers sooner or later. If it’s sooner from the Cubs, would a $200-million long-term right now satisfy both sides? Watching negotiations between Boras and Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would be worth the price of admission for the collision of sports and the high finance world.
“I have not heard any talks of that,” Bryant said of a long-term contract. “You know the deal. It will always go through Scott. He will advise me correctly. He gives the best advice in the business. I will hear anything they may have to say. I would be foolish not to. I am always open to options. I will go through Scott, and he will again give me the best advice possible.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.