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Why Is Everyone Mad at Kris Bryant?

Baseball’s new era of contracts is about more than the money

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Kris Bryant / Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

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October 16, 2018

While every baseball player fights for a chance to compete in the World Series, some superstars fight to change the economic structure of the game. With a set of rules that bind young baseball players to their teams for at least seven years, forward-thinking players and agents have learned to assess the risk and make business negotiations benefit themselves, not the teams.

 

But the public perception of money—especially huge money— hasn’t changed all too much.

 

Recently, the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant turned down a $200M extension. (There is some dispute as to whether there was an actual formal offer). To many casual fans, this was astonishing: Why in the world anyone would turn down a eyebrow-raising $200M? The Cubs want to keep their nucleus together, but Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, hopes to negotiate a deal that puts his client in better stead financially than what the Cubs might have to offer.

Boras—an established mega-million dollar contract hunter for some of baseball’s biggest stars—has represented Kris since he turned pro. The Cubs and Boras have a contentious history when it comes to Bryant; by delaying Bryant’s entrance into the Major leagues by 12 days, the Cubs were able to recoup an extra year of Bryant’s service time, which means he will become a free agent in 2021 instead of 2020.

 

Boras sees the Cubs offer as short-sighted and he’s prepared to bet on his player. Even though Bryant is coming off of a disappointing 2018 campaign filled with injuries, he won the MVP in 2016 and is 26 years old. While $200M would buy out Kris Bryant’s arbitration years—Bryant already set an arbitration hearing record last season—it could be well short of what he might demand, money-wise, in a new contract as a free agent in 2021. The free agency market cooled off last summer, but the business of baseball couldn’t be more booming.

 

Undoubtedly, Bryant is one of the major aspects of the Cubbies' recent success in the National League. The unexpected rise from Rookie Of The Year in 2015 to NL MVP and World Series Champion in 2016 are major reasons why Chicago should pay up. So siding with the team, especially a team owned by someone like Tom Ricketts, feels old-fashioned. Whatever Bryant and Boras scratch out will set the tone for all future young players—the term “team-friendly contract” could be a thing of the past.