Sluggish market will not scare arb-report winner Kris Bryant away from free company


Maybe the slow-moving free agent market this winter will make some players start to rethink their dreams of the open market?

Maybe those long-shot odds of the Cubs eventually signing homegrown star Kris Bryant to a long-term extension just got a lot better?

Maybe. Not.

“No, not at all,” Bryant said Friday of this market’s influence on his thinking – on the day he agreed to a record $10.85 million salary as a first-year arbitration-eligible player.

Kris Bryant greets fans during opening ceremonies for Cubs Convention Friday.

It’s an open secret the Cubs would love to work out a multiyear deal with the 2016 National League MVP, preferably one that extends beyond the club control that now runs through 2021.

They signed his cornerstone Bryzzo counterpart, Anthony Rizzo, to a seven-year, $41 million deal before Rizzo had a full season in the majors. Rizzo has since become a three-time All-Star, making $7 million this year on a contract that includes a pair of option years that could extend him through 2021.

But Bryant, whose deal to avoid arbitration Friday broke Ryan Howard’s decade-old record with the Phillies by $850,000, always has said he’s comfortable going year-to-year through arbitration.

“I guess for some players it might be stressful, but I really enjoyed the whole process of it,” he said Friday of his first time through it.

Why wouldn’t he? He made $1.05 million last year, which also was a record for a pre-arbitration-eligible player.

“I’m happy for KB,” team president Theo Epstein said. “I thought he got a fair and record award, which just shows a lot of special things he’s been able to accomplish and special teams he’s been on as well.”

If that continues at anything close to the current rate, the Cubs will have Bryant for exactly four more shots at repeating that 2016 World Series championship – likely paying him top arbitration dollar annually for the pleasure.

“When you look at this year, yeah it is a little strange,” Bryant said of a free agent market in which every player expected to command at least four years and more than $20 million per year remains unsigned. “But there’s cycles in this game. It seems to be just a weird market right now.

“I think the biggest thing as players is just belief in yourself, and if you go out and perform on the field, then you’re going to be wanted as a player,” added Bryant, who was forced to wait a seventh year for free agency after the Cubs kept him in the minors for two weeks as a rookie to manipulate his service time. “That’s been my mindset since I was in high school: Perform on the field and you’ll get what you deserve.

“That’s how I’m looking at it.”

Many in the game are looking at this year’s slowdown as the beginning of a possible trend, caused more by relatively low luxury-tax payroll thresholds in the second-year collective bargaining agreement (relative to fast-growing revenues) than by the desire to save for next…



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