If reigning National League Most Valuable Player Award winner Kris Bryant were to hit the open market today, he would command much more than $1.05 million. But as the 25-year-old just completed his second season in the majors and is still not yet eligible for arbitration, the Cubs have the luxury of renewing Bryant’s contract on their terms. So they did, but they did decide to pay him $1.05 million, which is a record for a player who just completed his second year of service time, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Angels outfielder Mike Trout had the previous record at $1 million.
The Cubs, you may recall, waited until April 17 of 2015 to call Bryant up rather than having him start the season on the 25-man roster. They did so in an attempt to limit his service time. It was such an obvious stunt that even the MLBPA monitored the situation. Bryant, of course, went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, then followed that up by winning the MVP Award last year.
Bryant will become eligible for arbitration after this season. He’ll no doubt become significantly more expensive, so expect the Cubs to attempt to sign him to an extension that would cover most or all four of his arbitration-eligible years and even buy out 2022 and beyond, when he would become eligible for free agency.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.