As the July 12 deadline to sign No. 2 overall draft pick Kris Bryant drew closer, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer maintained optimistic a deal would get done.
Hoyer was right. The Cubs and Bryant reportedly agreed to a bonus Wednesday worth $6,708,400, according to Baseball America, pending a physical. Bryant’s bonus is the largest given since the new draft rules were implemented two years ago, surpassing the $6.35 million the Astros gave this year’s No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel.
For the Cubs, adding Bryant, a third baseman, to the organization gives them another core minor league prospect. Bryant will likely start at Class-A (Short Season) Boise after a long layoff since the end of his college season at San Diego.
With infielder Javier Baez, outfielders Jorge Soler and Albert Almora and pitcher Pierce Johnson, who has been impressive since being drafted last year, Bryant gives the Cubs a legitimate prospect at a position of need. He led Division I with 31 homers, which was more than 223 of the 296 teams, and was considered to be the best power hitter in the draft.
While Bryant’s defense needs improvement, he has the potential to quickly move through the minors. At 21 years old, Bryant has three years of college baseball experience and could get some at-bats at Class-A Kane County by the end of the season.
Baseball America editor Jim Callis wasn’t surprised the negotiations between the Cubs and Bryant nearly went until the deadline. Bryant is currently only one of three players in the top 11 picks to get the full bonus slot value. The other players, save for the two who have yet to sign, all received bonuses under the suggested slot amount.
“I do think they’ve added some depth to the system,” Callis said of the Cubs. “They’ve definitely added pitching. … Because the signing deadline is a month earlier now, there’s really no difference if Bryant signs June 29 versus [now]. He’s still going to get a bunch of at-bats this summer.”
Bryant’s addition keeps the Cubs’ rebuilding vision on pace. Although Bryant could eventually move to the outfield based on his average defense at third, he gives the Cubs a fourth player that could reach the majors in the next two to three years.
The Cubs are, rightly, going to give Bryant every opportunity to stick at third. Junior Lake, currently at Triple-A Iowa, has been logging innings in the outfield while Josh Vitters, also at Iowa, has been nagged by injuries and struggled in 36 games with the Cubs last year, hitting .121. At the major league level, Luis Valbuena and Cody Ransom aren’t long-term solutions.
For the sake of the Cubs’ future, a deal had to get done with Bryant otherwise risking a setback in their plans to turn around the organization. They gave their largest bonus to a draft pick since Mark Prior ($4 million) in 2001.