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If Kris Bryant turned down extension, he was in the right

Kris Bryant turning down a reported contract extension with the Chicago Cubs valued north of $200 million makes a ton of sense, if you think about it.

If you haven’t heard, Kris Bryant reportedly turned down a contract extension from the Chicago Cubs worth more than $200 million. Since that initial report, there have been multiple refutations – but it’s still worth discussing regardless.

What if I told you Bryant turning down any contract extensions offered in the foreseeable future is actually brilliant on his end?

Bryant, 26, is coming off of a down year by his standards in which he played in just 102 games. Between getting hit in the head with a pitch and a nagging shoulder injury, 2018 was a year full of adversity for the former Rookie of the Year.

In those 102 games, Bryant hit .272 with 13 home runs, 52 RBI and an .834 OPS, all career-lows. The 2016 National League MVP looked like a shell of himself, especially in the NL Wild Card Game in which he went 1-for-6 with three strikeouts.

Essentially 2018 was the worst season of Bryant’s young career. His value to the Cubs cannot be questioned, of course. Still, it’s safe to say 2018 is not the best we’ll see again from the Cubs third baseman.

This, combined with the fact that he is under team control through 2021, makes it nonsensical for Bryant to sign a contract extension right now.

Yes, $200 million (or more, depending on what he was offered) is a ton of money. But we have little context regarding the contract that Bryant actually was offered.

A five-year contract and an eight-year contract at that value are two completely different things. If the Cubs were willing to offer Bryant that much money now, imagine what they would offer in a few years.

This is especially important if a healthy Bryant bounces back in 2019 and beyond as we all expect him to. However, the biggest reason that declining an extension right now makes sense has to do with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

Check out what Cubbies Crib site expert Jake Misener wrote about the situation on Wednesday:

He may very well want to see what type of money Bryce Harper and Manny Machado net in free agency this winter. They both hit the open market at age 25 – a far cry from the 30 Bryant will be when he tests the waters down the road. But, regardless, it gives him a bit of a measuring stick in any potential future contract discussions with the Cubs.

At the very least, Bryant is smart to wait a few months before entertaining a contract offer from the Cubs. What if Harper and Machado manage to get, let’s say, $350 million (or more, gulp) in free agency this offseason?

Bryant would look awfully foolish accepting a $200 million long-term deal only for Harper and Machado to accept more lucrative deals. Since 2015, Bryant’s 23.0 fWAR (Fangraphs WAR) is better than both Harper (20.6) and Machado (21.7).

Next: Who should Cubs fans root for in the postseason?

Harper and Machado are considered two of the best players in baseball. Bryant is right there with them, arguably better, when healthy. Playing the waiting game, at least until Harper and Machado sign new deals, is the smart thing for Bryant to do.

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