Bryant on Harper's contract: 'He deserves it'

March 1st, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- was in the middle of talking about the blockbuster contract gifted to by the Phillies when reality started to sink in. The Cubs third baseman paused and laughed at the thought of an aging Harper, who is a close friend of his.

"He's going to be 39," Bryant said, referring to the end date of Harper's new 13-year contract. "He's going to be 39. That's crazy."

News quickly spread on Thursday afternoon that the 26-year-old Harper and the Phillies agreed to a deal worth a reported $330 million. Bryant -- who lives in Las Vegas, which Harper also calls home -- has yet to reach out to his friend about the mammoth deal. The Cubs star wants to let the dust settle before making that call, knowing Harper will be bombarded with messages and requests over the next several days.

The development also put to rest any lingering hopes that Cubs fans had of Chicago making a last-ditch effort to bring Harper to the North Side. The Cubs' front office made it known publicly throughout the winter that a big-ticket free-agent signing was not realistic -- barring some creativity via trades -- but that message was not going to really hit home until Harper penned his name on a pact elsewhere.

Bryant doesn't deny daydreaming about being in the same lineup as Harper, but the Cubs third baseman was not about to be critical of the front office's approach.

"I mean, sure, I would've loved to have him here," Bryant said. "But you look at the circumstances, and I know that us as a team, we're making a whole lot of money. And you see what's going on around the field and stuff like that. But, at the end of the day, those guys up [in the front office] are going to be the ones that we have to trust in what they're doing.

"Honestly, I look around the room, and I'm super happy with the people we've got here. So I think it's important to kind of be happy for what we've got here, rather than [focus on] what we didn't get. So I'm happy for Bryce. I would love to have played with him, but it just didn't work out. Now, we'll just have to beat him."

As Bryant alluded to in those comments, the Cubs will head into 2019 with a payroll projected to be north of $212 million, which will set the franchise's single-season record. In terms of luxury-tax dollars (using average annual salaries), the team's payroll looks to be around $226 million this year.

Still, Cubs fans have grown accustomed to blockbuster signings in recent years. inked a six-year, $155 million contract prior to the '15 campaign. The Cubs followed that with the deal (eight years, $184 million), along with a few other signings the next winter. Prior to last season, Chicago reeled in with a six-year, $126 million contract, and the club had a handful of other free-agent additions.

With that history as a backdrop, Harper made a lot of sense given the club's offensive woes down the stretch last season. Instead, the Cubs focused on internal improvements and made it known that the '19 budget did not leave much room for outside help.

"Unfortunately, you just can't have a high-profile free agent every single year," Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said earlier in spring camp. "And part of that is obviously how much it costs, whatever the $25-$30 million it's going to cost. Plus, it's a 10-year commitment, and you've got to pay those dollars. So we like the team we have. We made the bets we have over the last few years.

"I think that we're well positioned to win the division again and, as much as I would love to have a great new exciting player every single season, it just can't happen every year."

Harper's contract wound up being a 13-year commitment, which was a little comical to Bryant.

"I don't think that's something that I would want," Bryant said. "That's a very long time."

But Bryant is thrilled for his friend.

"I bet he's super relieved that it's finally over and that he actually gets to play baseball now," he said. "I'm happy that he got what he wanted. I think he deserves it. He's been one of the brightest stars in the game since he got called up. A lot of hype and energy and all that surrounding him, and he's handled it so good. So it's nice to see him get what he deserves."