Cubs finalize contract with top pick Bryant
Third baseman receives $6.7 million signing bonus, to report to Mesa
CHICAGO -- It's time for Kris Bryant to get to work.
The Cubs and Bryant, the second player taken overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, finalized his deal on Friday, with the third baseman agreeing to a $6.7 million signing bonus.
"This has been a dream of mine and I'm very happy to be a Cub," Bryant said.
Bryant's bonus of $6,708,400 -- which was recommended for that slot -- tops the $6.35 million which the Astros gave No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel. Last year, Byron Buxton received the highest bonus, $6 million, from the Twins.
Now that Bryant is signed, the third baseman will report to the Cubs' facility in Mesa, Ariz., to work out before he is assigned to a Minor League team. He will then be assigned to Class A Boise.
"Once we get a feel for his conditioning, we'll figure out exactly what the right path is," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Certainly, he'll start out at the very low levels [in the Minors]. We're hopeful he can move quickly through those."
Bryant, 21, was considered the best power college bat in the Draft, and he led the nation in home runs (31), runs scored (80), walks and slugging percentage (.820) while playing at San Diego. In 62 games, he batted .329 with 13 doubles and 62 RBIs. San Diego would bat Bryant leadoff to avoid having teams pitch around him. Was he surprised at what he did this season?
"No," Bryant said confidently. "I expect a lot out of myself. I probably put higher expectations on myself than most people do. I go out there every day and expect to do great. I wasn't shocked at all. I know I have the talent in me to do great things on the field. I've been blessed with great, great skill in this game, and I did have a great year."
The third baseman was honored with the Dick Howser Trophy as the 2013 College Player of the Year.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum watched Bryant on video. On Friday, the newest Cub took batting practice with the big league team at Wrigley Field. He didn't drop every ball into the empty bleacher seats, which Cubs scouting director Jason McLeod said is normal. Bryant spends his batting-practice time hitting the ball to the opposite field.
"In games, he'll hit some of the longest balls you've ever seen," McLeod said.
Bryant showed good form for Sveum, and the young slugger wasn't trying to "put on a laser show," the manager said.
"He's got some impressive leverage in his swing to hit balls that far and that high," Sveum said. "That's a big guy who creates a lot of leverage in his swing."
It's nice to have a 21-year-old who outhomered 200 major college teams.
"You have five, six, seven guys who have tremendous bat speed and athletic ability," Sveum said. "It's nice to know a year has gone by and we have a lot of guys getting really close, and signing a kid like this, the best hitter in college baseball, is just another piece of the puzzle."
Bryant joins top prospects such as Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler in the Cubs' system. Bryant's bonus is the most the Cubs have given a player, topping the $6 million Soler received as part of a $30 million contract last year. The Cubs' previous Draft bonus standard was $4 million, which Mark Prior got as part of a $10.5 million deal when he was the second overall pick in 2001.
Bryant's father, Mike, was a ninth-round pick in 1980, and spent two Spring Trainings with Ted Williams in Red Sox camp. Mike is a hitting coach in Las Vegas, and he emphasized the need to hit breaking balls. His youngest son is his star pupil.
"[My dad] has taught me what Ted Williams taught him," Kris said. "It's been awesome to have him as a dad. He's taught me how to go about my journey and avoid potholes that I stepped in. He's been a great resource."
"For me, it's been incredibly satisfying, because to watch his talent grow, you knew he had a shot [at a pro contract], but we never made that the focus," Mike said. "We looked at baseball as the opportunity to deliver an education."
Bryant has played third, outfield and pitcher, and he was even a catcher in Little League. Sveum joked with the youngster that if he had signed a month ago, he could be starting for the big league team.
The emotions of the day were too much for Bryant's mother, Susie, who cried at the news conference at Wrigley. She was born in Chicago and still has family in the suburbs. No, they haven't started asking for Cubs tickets.
"He's very polished and handled what can be an intimidating day with a lot of poise," said Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. "Most important, it's really cool to see how happy the family is, and the mom tearing up at the press conference. That's what it's all about -- they deserve a special day, and now it's time to start another journey."
Did Kris always want to be a Major League ballplayer?
"No, he wanted to be a dentist," Susie said.
That will have to wait.