The Cubs settled with three other players on Friday who were arbitration eligible: pitchers Kyle Hendricks ($4.175 million) and Justin Wilson ($4.25 million) along with infielder Tommy La Stella ($950,000).
Bryant, the 2016 National League MVP during he Cubs' historic World Series-winning campaign, has 94 home runs in three MLB seasons. His salary went from $760,500 last year to a reported $4.125 million this year.
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Bryant could break the record for highest salary among players eligible for arbitration for the first time, a mark set when first baseman Ryan Howard was awarded a raise from $900,000 to $10 million by a three-person panel in 2008 instead of Philadelphia's $7 million offer. Howard's first-year arbitration eligible stood for 10 seasons.
Avoiding arbitration also has the added benefit of not bringing Russell's recent off-the-field issues into the spotlight again, which would've been fair game in hearings to determine the value of his contract. He rebounded from an injury-slowed 2016 to hit.270 last season with 33 homers and 78 RBIs. The Cubs won the World Series that year for the first time since 1908. He's one of baseball's brightest young stars and overall players.
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As Russell was called up just a few weeks into the 2015 season, he qualifies as a "Super Two" player, meaning he is arbitration eligible from 2018-21, after which he can enter the free agent market. The Cubs have never gone to arbitration with a player in the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer era. Reliever Justin Grimm did not reach an agreement with the team.
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Furthermore, the offensive could lead to collapse of Astana process and eventually the hardly established cease-fire in de-escalation zones.