CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs and star third baseman Kris Bryant avoided arbitration, agreeing to an $18.6 million, one-year contract on Friday, a person familiar with the situation said.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced. The Cubs also agreed to a $1.575 million contract with outfielder Albert Almora Jr.
The 2016 NL MVP, Bryant rebounded from an injury-riddled season to bat .282 with 31 homers and 77 RBIs. But the big question is whether he will remain with the team he led to a drought-busting World Series championship three years ago. The Cubs’ thin minor league system, the prospects Bryant could bring back in a trade, the massive contract the three-time All-Star would figure to command as a free agent and his pending service-time grievance against the team have all thrown his future into question.
The third baseman debuted on April 17, 2015, leaving him one day shy of the service time needed to become a free agent after the 2020 season. Bryant contends he was held in the minors in a deliberate effort to delay his free-agent eligibility.
The Cubs hope Almora can bounce back after his batting average dropped 50 points to .236 and his on-base percentage fell from .323 to .271. The former first-round pick hit just .213 against left-handers even though he is a righty. And his average on balls in play was .255.
The Cubs reached the deals just before Friday’s deadline for exchanging proposed salary numbers with players eligible for arbitration. That list also included star shortstop Javier Báez, All-Star catcher Willson Contreras, slugger Kyle Schwarber and reliever Kyle Ryan.
Chicago missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014 with an 84-78 record. The Cubs hired former catcher David Ross to replace Joe Maddon as manager, hoping “Grandpa Rossy” could give them a