The Cubs have reached a record-setting deal with star third baseman Kris Bryant, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Twitter). He will earn $10.85MM, setting a new high-water mark for first-time arb-eligible players.
Previously, Ryan Howard held the record for the biggest arbitration payout to a player entering the process for the first time. His $10MM mark had held sway since 2010. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz broke down Bryant’s case recently, suggesting he felt it somewhat more likely that Bryant would not quite top Howard.
Of course, there could be other factors weighing on the situation, including the controversy over Bryant’s initial promotion timeline and the fact that the Cubs would no doubt like to work out an extension if possible. Paying a bit extra and giving Bryant a record-setting deal may end up working to Chicago’s benefit. And it was no doubt preferable for the club to steer clear of a hearing.
In the spring of 2015, Chicago decided not to take Bryant north with the MLB club when it broke camp, instead waiting a few weeks to bring him up for his first big league action. That delay left the Cubs free to control him through 2021, rather than 2020, but spurred a grievance action and also left Bryant eligible to qualify for arbitration in 2018 — meaning he’ll get four bites at the apple through the arb process.
The Cubs’ approach still clearly favors the organization in the long run. But Bryant nevertheless now stands to take down some massive earnings throughout the arbitration process. He’ll have three more seasons to tack raises on top of his hefty $10.85MM starting point.