The Chicago Cubs and Kris Bryant, the University of San Diego’s standout power-hitting third baseman and the No. 2 overall pick in last month’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, have officially agreed to a contract.
Negotiated by Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, the 21-year-old’s signing bonus deal is reportedly $6.7 million, making the Toreros’ all-time home-run leader the highest-paid player among the 2013 draftees. It’s also the highest amount awarded since MLB went with a slotted bonus system. The bonus surpasses what the Houston Astros gave to the No. 1 overall player chosen, Stanford pitcher Mark Appel ($6.35 million).
“This is a dream of mine and I am very happy to be a Cub,” said Bryant in a Chicago Tribune story from a Wrigley Field press conference held on Friday. “Hopefully I can play this game for a long time. I am excited to get my journey started. I am going to go out there and do my best.”
Bryant will now be heading to the Cubs’ training facility in Mesa, Ariz., before going to the team’s short season Class-A minor league team, the Boise (Idaho) Hawks of the Northwest League.
It’s the start of a new chapter for Bryant, but it also closes the book on his three-year college playing career, which concluded with the best individual season by any Torero baseball player.
Bryant, who led the NCAA this past season with 31 home runs, is the recipient of the Golden Spikes Award as the top amateur baseball player, the Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball’s player of the year, and has been recognized by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball as their college national player of the year.
Besides leading the NCAA in home runs, Bryant also led the nation in runs (80), base on balls (66), total bases (187) and slugging percentage (.820) in 2013. He finished with 54 career home runs at USD.
“The Cubs are getting a special player,” said USD Baseball Coach Rich Hill. “He was a program changer for us. He worked extremely hard at his craft and he wants to be the best. Combined with his character and everything else, he was absolutely special. He was a once-in-a-career type of player. We look forward to watching him for many years to come.”
Jay Johnson, recently named head coach at the University of Nevada-Reno after serving on Hill’s coaching staff through this past season and who’d followed Bryant since his sophomore year at Bonanza High School in Las Vegas, was equally thrilled.
“I’m proud of Kris,” he said. “His decision to come to USD took the program to another level. Getting the opportunity to coach him day in, day out was a great privilege. I’m very excited to watch his career develop.”
Asked what the Cubs organization and their fans should expect from Bryant as his quest begins to reach the majors, Johnson said: “Kris is a very mature player who understands the importance of staying in the moment, sticking to his routines and has a high level of mental discipline. Those qualities, along with his physical skills, are what make him such a special player. Over time Cubs fans will really develop an appreciation for how he plays the game.”
Perhaps the toughest part of Bryant’s summer has been to stay patient. He was drafted on June 6, but he waited a little over a month before signing the deal. He stayed sharp by hitting baseballs in his parents’ backyard batting cage in Las Vegas and by staying fit. His last college game was June 2, a 6-0 USD loss to UCLA in the NCAA Los Angeles Regional championship game.
Meanwhile, six of Bryant’s USD teammates whose names were called for the MLB Draft last month signed and are playing in the minor leagues across the country.
• Pitchers Dylan Covey (fourth round) and Trevor Bayless (22nd round), are teammates for the Oakland Athletics’ short-season Class A team, the Burlington-based Vermont Lake Monsters in the New York-Penn League. Covey has made four starts with no decisions but 15 strikeouts and only one walk in 12 innings. Bayless, working in relief, already has three saves he earned his first professional win on July 9.
• Catcher Austin Green, a 13th-round draft pick by the Detroit Tigers, is playing in the New York-Penn League, too, but with the Norwich-based Connecticut Tigers. Green hit his first professional home run on June 30.
• Michael Wagner has posted three innings of scoreless relief for the Chicago Cubs’ rookie Arizona League team in Mesa, Ariz. He was a 15th-round pick by the Cubs and it’s likely that he and Bryant will be reunited soon.
• Catcher Dillon Haupt, a 20th-round pick by the Chicago White Sox, is playing in Great Falls, Mont., for the Voyagers. He’s hitting .280 with a double and an RBI.
• Left-handed pitcher Max Homick, taken by the Baltimore Orioles in the 32nd round, reportedly signed just this week and has not been assigned to a minor-league team yet.
• Logan Davis, who was not drafted, did, however, recently sign a free-agent deal with the Kansas City Royals organization. He’s now playing shortstop for the Royals’ Arizona League minor-league team.
— Ryan T. Blystone
USD Athletics contributed to this story