I'm not among those wringing my hands about the Kris Bryant negotiations. We saw some of that last year with Albert Almora, but I wasn't worried then either.
More than anything, it's annoying because Bryant could have gotten his career started already and should be hitting 450 foot HRs for the Boise Hawks right now -- but it's just a delay of the inevitable, all for a wrangling for the few slot dollars left to gain.
There is a lot at stake for Kris Bryant. His value will never be higher so I understand that Boras is trying to capitalize on that. For that same reason, Bryant really has nothing to gain by going back to school. His value as an amateur is nearly at it's peak and the only time it will get higher -- albeit marginally higher -- is closer to the deadline. But when that deadline passes, that value will begin to decrease.
He certainly doesn't have as much to gain as Boras' last big draft client, Mark Appel, did. Appel went 8th and the Pirates were only able to offer him something less than $4M -- an amount he could have easily beaten the next season simply by repeating his performance. That is not the case with Bryant. Bryant could hit 40 HRs next year and it won't significantly increase his value. And unless something happens to NC State's LHP Carlos Rodon, he's going to go 2nd again -- at best -- and with less leverage. Like Appel, he'll probably be forced to sign an underslot deal no matter where he's picked.
Now Boras will have you think that Appel agreed to a sweetheart deal for the chance to play for his hometown team, but that love didn't exist last year when Houston broached the subject of a pre-draft deal. Losing leverage has a way of tugging at those heart strings, I suppose.
So Boras is struggling for a few hundred thousand, putting out the word in the media about all the reasons why he doesn't need to sign. Well, it's a bunch of malarkey.
Let's say Bryant doesn't sign and everything goes to Boras' plan and he manages to extract an extra 500K in bonus money. At what cost? At the cost of time value with that money? At the cost of delaying his progression through the minor leagues by a year, thereby delaying the starting of his service time clock toward arbitration and free agency? That's where Bryant can make the real money. It takes just one year quicker to arbitration to make up and surpass whatever extra bonus money he can extract now.
So where is the logic?
It's really about setting market value and Boras in effect is using Bryant as his test case to accomplish that goal. He wants to set the bar higher for next year. He'll say he has his clients' best interest in minds -- but that is more true in the larger sense. And by that I mean that it's better for his clients -- his future clients -- in aggregate.
But it does little for Bryant except delay the start of his pro career. The immediate monetary gain, if he were to strike a larger deal next year, is nominal -- and that gain in the present is paid --overpaid, in fact, by the delaying of his ascent to the MLB club. In fact, it already has delayed it to some extent. What it really does is it benefits Boras' clients next year and that in turn, benefits Boras himself, not Bryant.
Boras will also tell you that the Cubs have a lot to lose and nothing to gain but "a comp pick". He is right in that the Cubs do have something to lose. They'd certainly like to sign Bryant and accelerate his development. They'd like to get him ready to help the big league team as soon as possible. But the "comp pick" that the Cubs gain is the #3 pick in next year's draft -- a pick where they can get a similar, possibly even better, player at less cost. What the Cubs lose here is a year of player development -- but that is a loss they share mutually with Bryant -- and thus Boras himself.
So in the end, Boras will finagle as much as he can of that remaining pool money and will sign when Bryant is at peak value -- which will be as close to the deadline as possible. That will undoubtedly create some tense moments, but Boras is smart enough to know that when all is said and done, he is better off having his client sign this year. He'll take as much as he can but he won't overplay his hand. The small gains in bonus money he may need to forfeit now are far less than the money he stands to gain later when Bryant is a major league player. It's not the same scenario as last year when he ultimately took a calculated gamble by not having Appel sign. It paid off. He was able to make an extra $2.5M for Appel and himself, but he will not gain nearly that much even in the best case scenario for Bryant. There is a far better chance Boras will lose money by sending Bryant to school.
And a couple things we know about Boras, he is smart and he doesn't like to lose -- but sending Bryant to school is almost a certain loss, not for him, but also for his client and the Cubs team -- a big market team -- with which he he has worked hard to build a good relationship.
In other words, everyone loses if Bryant doesn't sign and there is no way all 3 parties choose a scenario in which they all lose. It's just not going to happen.
So yeah, Bryant will sign. Maybe Boras will get some extra dollars and claim victory in the negotiations -- but that would be a victory that is more about Boras than Bryant. The real victory for both Bryant and the Cubs will be when he gets on to the baseball field.
And the sooner the better.
Filed under: MLB Draft