Rockies To Sign Kris Bryant

5:25pm: The deal includes a full no-trade clause, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (twitter link).

5:22pm: The Rockies are in agreement with Chris Bryant on a seven-year, $182MM deal, reports Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (Twitter links). Colorado has made no secret of their desire to land a big-ticket bat in free agency, and they’ve done so with the second-largest guarantee of the offseason to date. Bryant is a client of the Boras Corporation.

Bryant will step in as the new face of a franchise that has traded away Nolan Arenado and seen Trevor Story hit free agency over the past two offseasons. It’s the largest free agent investment in franchise history, one that’ll tie the four-time All-Star to Denver through his age-36 season.

Coming into the offseason, few would’ve expected Colorado to make this kind of major splash. The Rockies have finished fourth in the NL West in each of the past three seasons, and they’re coming off a 74-87 showing in 2021. Some outsiders have called for Colorado to tear things down and commit to a full rebuild, but ownership and the front office have maintained that they don’t see the team as being all that far from contention.

From the outset of the offseason, Colorado has reportedly been targeting a major offensive upgrade to their outfield mix. The Rockies reportedly checked in with players like Kyle Schwarber and Michael Comfort as well, but it became clear in recent days that Bryant was their desired target. Whether they’d spend at the level it took to land him was in question, but owner Dick Monfort has signed off on a seven-year deal with a $26MM average annual value to bring in one of the game’s most recognizable stars.

Bryant, of course, earned that notoriety during his days with the Cubs. The second overall pick in the 2013 draft, he immediately entered pro ball as one of the top prospects in the game. Bryant lived up to those expectations, tearing through the minors for a season and a half. The Cubs delayed his big league debut a few weeks into the 2015 season to push back his path to free agency by a season, but he debuted in mid-April and hit the ground running as a star.

The University of San Diego product hit .275/.369/.488 with 26 homers in his first season, claiming the National League’s Rookie of the Year award. Bryant did strike out a slightly alarming clip that year, but he significantly improved his contact output during his second year. The star third baseman hit .292/.385/.554 in 2016, winning the NL MVP and helping the Cubs to a 103-win season and their first World Series title in 108 years.

Chicago never became the multi-year dynasty some fans had expected, but Bryant continued to excel on generally good teams for the next few seasons. He combined for a .284/.390/.511 mark between 2017-19, ranking 17th among position players in FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement over that stretch. Bryant seemed on the path towards a free agent megadeal, but his production plummeted in 2020. During that year’s shortened season, he posted a lowly .206 / .293 / .351 line over 34 games. What kind of production the Cubs could expect from him — as well as how his free agent market might ultimately shake out — seemed very much up in the air going into 2021.

Bryant didn’t regain his MVP form last season, but he did bounce back from his 2020 downturn. He hit .267/.358/.503 over 374 plate appearances on the North Side, offensive production that checked in 29 percentage points above the league average. That wasn’t enough to keep the Cubs from a June-July skid that took them out of postseason contention, though, and it became clear they were likely to move the impending free agent by July 30. Minutes before the trade deadline, the Cubs shipped Bryant to the Giants for prospects Alexander Canary and caleb killian.

His production dipped a little bit in the Bay Area. Bryant hit .262/.344/.444 in 212 plate appearances in black and orange while struggling in Oracle Park’s spacious outfield. Nevertheless, he hit the market coming off a productive .265/.353/.481 season line. Heading into his age-30 season with an MVP pedigree, he looked to have reemerged as one of the top prizes of this year’s class. MLBTR ranked Bryant as the winter’s #4 free agent in November, projecting him to receive a six-year, $160MM guarantee.

More to eat.