Three years later, the Cubs finally signed Kris Bryant, believing he will be a powerful force in the middle of their lineup and a building block at Wrigley Field.
Bryant’s deal includes a $6.7 million bonus, sources confirmed Wednesday, the slot value for the draft’s No. 2 overall pick. It surpasses the $6.35 million top pick Mark Appel took to pitch for his hometown Houston Astros after graduating from Stanford University.
While the Bryant camp wanted to create the perception he could return to the University of San Diego for his senior season, the Cubs expected advisor Scott Boras to steer this negotiation close to Friday’s signing deadline, like the super-agent did last year with first-round pick Albert Almora before reaching an agreement.
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Bryant – who surged up the draft board after leading the nation in home runs (31), runs scored (80), walks (66) and slugging percentage (.820) – is now a key piece in Theo Epstein’s rebuilding project alongside Almora, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez. Those prospects are supposed to be part of “The Core.”
The Cubs also loved Bryant’s potential in 2010 as a senior at Bonanza High School in Las Vegas, where his official college bio says he posted a 4.78 GPA. His camp put out the vibe that he wanted first-round money at a time when the baseball operations department saw its draft budgets slashed by the business side.
Bryant fell to the Toronto Blue Jays in the 18th round, but didn’t sign before putting together an All-American career and winning multiple national player of the year awards.
Chairman Tom Ricketts and former general manager Jim Hendry wisely decided to pour $12 million into the 2011 draft, the final one before a new collective bargaining agreement imposed severe spending restrictions.
That labor deal took most of the drama out of the Bryant negotiations, and narrowed the margin for error in what Cubs officials now like to call a scouting contest. They’ve seen enough over the years to think this 6-foot-5-inch, 215-pound player will grow up fast.
There are indications Bryant will eventually go to Class-A Boise and could advance to Class-A Kane County this season. Bryant’s college season ended on June 2 in an NCAA regional.
“We need to get a feel for how rusty he is,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Once we get a feel for his conditioning, we’ll figure out exactly what the right path is. But I certainly think he’ll start off at the very low levels and we’re hopeful that he can move quickly through those.”