Much of the focus this season for the Cubs has been the ever-improving farm system and, what appears to be, a bright future for the North Siders a few years from now.
With their organization already vastly improved over the past year, they had the added bonus of holding the No. 2 pick in the June draft, where they would have an opportunity to add another impact player to the organization.
Expected by most to go the starting pitching route and take whoever didn't go No. 1 between Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray, the team instead passed on Gray when the Astros took Appel and selected the top college hitter on the board in University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant.
The pick was a head-scratcher for some fans of the team, but there's no denying the offensive upside of Bryant after he hit .329/.493/.820 with 31 home runs and 62 RBI in 62 games this past season.With a big 6'5" and 215-pound frame he certainly looks the part of a future middle-of-the-order starter.
Coming off of his junior season he was by no means expected to be a bargain when it came to negotiations given the fact that he did have another year of college eligibility , but he was not expected to be a tough sign either.s
However, with Scott Boras as his adviser, the team has been unable to terms so far and according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports on Wednesday things will likely go right up to the July 15 deadline.
The slot allocation for the No. 2 pick this year was around $6.7 million, and while Bryant is seeking something slightly above slot, the Cubs are offering more in the area of $6 million after No. 1 pick Mark Appel signed below slot at $6.35 million.
Appel, who is also a Boras client, was selected with the No. 8 pick in last year's draft but opted to return to Stanford for his senior season. Even with his signing below slot, the decision earned Appel another $3 million that he would have gotten if he signed last year, so Bryant could also threaten to go the same route.
Given the current state of the Cubs franchise, they can't afford to not sign Bryant, so in the end I think the team is more or less forced to give the slugger whatever he's seeking, but this will no doubt go down to the final minutes if a deal gets done at all.
If that was not enough of a reason for concern among Cubs fans, it was reported today that top prospect Jorge Soler has suffered a stress fracture in his left shin.
While the preliminary report is 4-6 weeks, the team has apparently also not ruled out the possibility that the Cuban defector may be lost for the year.
Signed to a nine-year, $30 million deal last June after defecting, Soler has had his ups and downs at High-A Daytona, including a suspension early in the season for wielding a bat. All in all though, it's been a positive first full pro season for him.
He has hit .281/.343/.467 with eight home runs and 35 RBI on the season, and was recently named to the World Team for the upcoming Futures Game at All-Star weekend.
My guess is they won't push him to return for the final weeks of the minor league season, as the 21-year-old is still a few years from reaching the big leagues anyway. He could see time in the fall and winter leagues to make up for lost time, and when all is said and done, this shouldn't sidetrack his development all that much.
It's disappointing nonetheless, and coupled with the team's struggles to sign Bryant, it's been a tough couple of days for what has been an optimistic Cubs fan base this season.