News broke on Wednesday about the Cubs and Kris Bryant finally reaching a deal, as referenced on the Cubbies Crib Facebook page. On Friday, the North Siders officially introduced their first round draft pick (second overall) to the media via a news conference at Wrigley Field. Bryant is a third baseman out of the University of San Diego that is considered the best power prospect of this draft class. At 6 foot 5 inches and 215 pounds, there have been whispers as to whether he is too big to play the hot corner. However many, including the Cubs front office, feel Bryant has the above average athleticism to allow a player of his size to play the position. The worst case scenario defensively is that the college junior eventually is transitioned to the outfield if he cannot hold his own at third.
The highly touted prospect was a minor surprise pick by the Cubs, with many experts and those in the media betting on the Cubs taking one of the top two college pitchers available in the draft with the second pick overall. That was educated speculation considering the lack of pitching depth the Cubs possess in their farm system, but many Cubs fans are also familiar with the lack of a solution at third base that goes back as far as the days of Ron Santo sporting the blue pinstripes on the field. The drafting of Bryant may also be a hint at where aging prospect Josh Vitters really stands with this front office. In his junior season, Bryant showed the ability to hit for average (.329) and power (31 home runs to lead all college players). Along with the long balls came 13 doubles, three triples, and 80 runs, all in just 62 games played. Bryant will spend some time in Mesa, Arizona to get back into the swing of baseball activities before jumping to play with Boise in the Cubs system.
With Scott Boras as his super agent, Bryant was able to land a $6.7 million signing bonus alone. That amount is a Chicago Cubs record, although it is in line with the suggested bonus amount for the second slot in the draft. During the lengthy negotiation process, it was reported that the Cubs ($6 million) and agent ($6.7 million) were struggling to meet somewhere in the middle. It is clearly apparent now that Bryant and Boras have won this battle. To provide a little more perspective on the dollar figure, top pick Mark Appel received under slot value at $6.35 million from the Astros. This is for a pitcher that entered the draft again after not signing with the Pirates a year ago.
But Cubs fans should not fret over the dollar amount. As seen in the international signing period and the attempts to self fund the renovation of Wrigley Field, the Ricketts family appears to have no issue investing money for the long term good of the ballclub. The signing of Bryant and the international players is a signal that at least when it comes to spending the dollars appropriately, the wallet is open. The Cubs are a big market team and should be spending funds to develop a more consistent product. From the comments we have heard from Bryant so far, he has a personality that exudes confidence without coming off as being cocky like a Bryce Harper. So in that aspect, there should be no concern over the young third baseman crumbling under the pressures of a big contract or signing bonus.
That confidence is a positive aspect, because as things currently stand, Bryant has a clear path to the Majors as a Cub if he can carry over his ability to hit and play third base.