MILWAUKEE – Minutes after the Cubs drafted him No. 2 overall, Kris Bryant got on a conference call with the Chicago media and said he thought he could play in the big leagues right now.
So why would the University of San Diego third baseman return to school for his senior season?
Privately, team officials expected Bryant’s advisor, Scott Boras, to push these negotiations right up to the July 12 signing deadline. Bryant even used the Boras playbook on that teleconference three weeks ago, talking about “if we figure out a deal here” and “if we can make this deal happen.”
So Wednesday’s CBSSports.com report saying the two sides are “nowhere close to a deal” shouldn’t have been alarming. There’s still plenty of time to find common ground between Theo Epstein’s front office, the game’s most powerful agent and a potential star attraction at Wrigley Field.
The No. 2 overall pick has been assigned a $6.7 million slot value (in what was generally regarded as a weaker draft without an obvious slam-dunk choice at the top).
No. 1 pick Mark Appel – a Boras guy who turned down the Pittsburgh Pirates last year and went back to pitch his senior year at Stanford University – recently agreed to a $6.35 million signing bonus with his hometown Houston Astros.
University of Oklahoma flamethrower Jonathan Gray took $4.8 million from the Colorado Rockies as the third overall pick. So the contours of a possible Bryant deal have already taken shape.
Bryant doesn’t have anything left to prove at the college level, and it’s hard to picture his stock going any higher after leading the nation in homers (31), runs scored (80), walks (66) and slugging percentage (.820). He’s an advanced, polished power hitter who should be able to move through the system fairly quickly.
“You never know,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, citing the adjustments that come with using a wood bat and playing every day. “The jury’s still out sometimes on the defense: (How soon) is that going to be ready?
“You can’t put any timetables on kids like that getting to the big leagues. Hopefully, everything goes well and you get those players with that kind of power and leverage in their swing. You want to get them here early, but you obviously don’t want to do anything that’s going to wreck his development either.”
Bryant posted a 3.34 GPA last year and made the West Coast Conference’s all-academic team. He also mentioned his family’s connections to the Chicago area and gushed about the chance to meet Epstein before the draft, saying how that would be something he could tell his grandchildren.
This wave of prospects will feel the weight of big-market expectations, how they’re supposed to be a major part of “The Cubs Way.”
“You just hope those guys don’t put any added pressure on themselves and they have the makeup and the character to go along with being put in those positions,” Sveum said. “It sounds like with all the due diligence we’ve done before drafting him (that Bryant’s) a pretty special kid.”