Rockies sign Kris Bryant to 7-year deal

March 18th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies announced the signing of a seven-year deal with Kris Bryant, the four-time All-Star who lifted the Cubs to the 2016 World Series title while earning National League Most Valuable Player honors, on Friday. The deal is for $182 million sources told on Wednesday, though the club did not share the financial terms.

Bryant, 30, became the Rockies’ chosen player to provide a middle-of-the-lineup threat when shortstop Trevor Story spurned the club’s attempt to re-sign him. Bryant transforms an outfield group that struggled for production last year, and he makes the Rockies less dependent on emerging players as they attempt to surprise in the National League West.

Last season, Bryant batted .265 with 25 home runs and 73 RBIs for the Cubs and Giants, who traded for him at the deadline to help make a late playoff push. He is a career .278 hitter with an .880 OPS, 167 home runs and 487 RBIs over seven seasons.

As late as the eve of the 2013 MLB Draft, the Rockies seemed poised to select Bryant third overall out of the University of San Diego. But on Draft morning, the Cubs’ intention to pick him at No. 2 became known and the Rockies pivoted to right-handed pitcher Jon Gray. This winter, Gray left the Rockies for the Rangers on a four-year, $56 million deal.

Also, after the 2018 season, when then-Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado’s unhappiness with the club’s direction became known, reports surfaced that Colorado was talking to the Cubs about Bryant. A source with knowledge of the talks said recently that Rockies owner Dick Monfort pushed hard for a deal, but the teams could not come to an agreement.

Bryant earned the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2015 and reached the pinnacle in his second Major League season, 2016, when he led the NL in runs, rang up 39 home runs and 102 RBIs and batted .292 en route to the MVP Award. His wide grin after he threw to first base to clinch the Fall Classic against Cleveland was the photogenic moment of the Cubs ending a 108-year World Series-winning drought.

An All-Star in 2015, 2016, 2019 and last season, Bryant was traded to a Giants team that ended the Dodgers’ eight-year lock on the NL West title. In 51 games with San Francisco, Bryant batted .262 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs. Throughout his career, Bryant has shown a willingness to play any position the team needs. He’s seen significant time at all three outfield positions, third base and first base, and the addition of the designated hitter to the NL also gives him another way to make sure a lineup works.

The signing of Bryant gives the Rockies offensive consistency. Only in the shortened 2020 season, when he played with a fractured left wrist and torn ligaments in his ring finger, did Bryant finish a season with an OPS+ lower than 121 (100 is MLB average). Bryant also brings the Rockies playoff production and experience -- seven home runs in 44 postseason games.

Bryant most likely fits the Rockies as a corner outfielder, which is fine for a club that before the ’13 Draft saw him as a potential heir apparent to Carlos González in right. Now Bryant logically fits in left, unless the Rockies transition right fielder Charlie Blackmon to mostly a DH role.

The signing also throws into flux the role of Raimel Tapia, the left fielder and leadoff man for much of the past two seasons. At times Tapia has provided a high batting average and speed, but there also have been instances where he has struggled by chasing pitches out of the strike zone. With many teams still setting their rosters, and with the Rockies in search of quality and depth, Tapia could become a trade candidate.

As Rockies fans, and even their own players, waited for news on their pursuit of a big bat, the club made some lower-profile but necessary additions on one-year contracts. Colorado fortified the bullpen with right-hander Alex Colomé, who arrived with 155 career saves. The Rockies added former Pirates righty Chad Kuhl, likely to the starting rotation. To replace Story's defense at shortstop, they signed veteran glove man José Iglesias.