Slugging third baseman Kris Bryant, the No. 2 pick overall by the Cubs, is one of only a handful of first-rounders still unsigned. And judging by the negotiations so far, he's going to remain that way for a while -- probably right up until the July 12 deadline.
The Cubs and Bryant -- the University of San Diego slugger who hit a whopping 31 home runs, nearly 50 percent more than the second-place homer hitter in the NCAA, who had 21 -- are nowhere close to a deal, according to people familiar with the talks.
Word is, Bryant is looking for something above the $6.7 million slot allotted for the No. 2 pick, while it's believed the Cubs are thinking about something closer to the $6 million range.
Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick, signed with the Astros for $6.35 million, so the Cubs apparently are hoping to fall in just below that. But Bryant, who's being advised by Scott Boras, who also is Appel's adviser, seeks the top bonus this year.
The vast majority of first-rounders sign every year, and this year the signings generally have gone as swiftly and smoothly as ever before, with 26 of 33 already in their team's fold. The only first-rounder not to sign last year was the right-handed pitcher Appel, who was picked No. 8 by the Pirates but turned down a $3.3 million offer (and a possibility to get $3.8 million) to return for his senior season at Stanford.
Appel made close to $3 million more for his call to finish his Stanford career, but word is he signed below slot (the slot for the No. 1 overall pick was about $7.7 million) because the Houston native was thrilled to be picked No. 1 by his hometown team, and also because there's a value and cachet to being the No. 1 pick and a significant savings to be made from the lack of state tax in Texas.
Bryant could chose to return for his senior season at baseball power USD, delay his pro career and hope for a higher deal next year. The Miami Marlins, who are perhaps working their way into position for the No. 1 overall pick, are known to like Bryant, though North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon, a Miami native, is seen as a monster prospect, as well.
The Cubs can sell Bryant on the allure of becoming a Cub and playing in a great city. They can point to not only Appel, but Jonathan Gray, the No. 3 overall pick who signed for $4.8 million with the Rockies.
But Bryant, with rare power (he hit more home runs than a vast majority of NCAA teams), apparently sees his value as quite a bit higher than $6 million. It is believed the Cubs still have at least $7 million to spend, as a team can go 5 percent over their allotment without surrendering a 2014 draft choice, and the Cubs' allotment is $10.56 million.
If Bryant chooses not to sign, the high-revenue Cubs can not spend the money elsewhere; they'd only receive a 2014 replacement pick. The new Cubs regime of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer has done a very nice job gathering future assets, and the team is becoming well-stocked in the minors, with the last two draft choices in particular, slugging shortstop Javier Baez and multi-talented center fielder Albert Almora, looking like absolute studs in the minors.
Epstein and Jed Hoyer have a long and interesting history with Boras going back to the pair's championship days in Boston, when they had as many as seven Boras client on their Red Sox roster, and have done some notable deals together, including those for Daisuke Matsuzaka, J.D. Drew and Almora last year.
They appear to have a real difference of opinion here, though, so no deal currently is in sight. This one looks like it'll go right down to the wire, assuming it happens at all.