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Wait and $ee: Meter starts on Kris Bryant’s next deal as Cubs open in Texas

ARLINGTON, Texas — Just because the Cubs were aggressive enough to get an extension done with Kyle Hendricks this week, don’t assume that’s a precursor to getting something done with Kris Bryant.

Bryant said again this week that he and the club have not engaged in any such talks and he remains focused on this season before thinking about his next contract.

Besides, maybe he was right last week when he suggested there wouldn’t be any other free agents left by the time it’s his turn after the 2021 season.

When Hendricks signed that four-year $55.5 million contract extension, he became the eighth player from seven teams to sign an extension worth at least $50 million in the last two weeks alone — five worth at least $100 million.

Kris Bryant after a spring training home run. (John Antonoff photo)

It’s unprecedented in baseball history for the number of big deals in such a short spurt as well as for the magnitude of the deals.

“It’s crazy,” Bryant said even before Hendricks’ signing. “It’s getting kind of fun to follow though. It’s like, ‘OK, who’s signing today?’ ”

The extensions of Mike Trout ($426 million), Paul Goldschmidt ($130 million), Chris Sale ($145 million), Jacob deGrom ($137.5 million) and others in the last 10 days came just a few weeks after a quick flurry in February that included Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado’s eight-year, $260 million deal.

Bryant, whose next extension talks are certain to include the word “Arenado,” has been increasingly outspoken about rising labor tensions over such things as service-time manipulation and paralysis of free-agent markets the last two seasons.

He doesn’t seem sure what’s behind the recent flurry or how it might relate to recent free-agency trends — or the fact that, according a report this week, baseball’s average salary is projected to fall for the second consecutive season.

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What seems certain is that it’s not “cyclical,” as Cubs president Theo Epstein suggested Tuesday.

What also seems clear regarding Bryant’s status with the club is that talks probably don’t make any sense until he establishes another healthy, Bryant-like season after last year’s shoulder injury.

If the player Cubs fans most want extended wasn’t willing to sign for a hometown discount in 2017, he’s certainly not going to do it after watching how the last two free-agent markets treated players in their 30s after seeing what Arenado got.

(John Antonoff photo)

“I didn’t want to be a free agent when I’m 32, 33 years old,” he said of his thinking then. “Then you’re just going to be signing one-year deals form then on out [as a free agent] — especially how 33 year olds are looked at in free agency now. They’re the ones that still are unsigned.”

Not to mention superstar closer Craig Kimbrel, 30, and former Cy Young starter Dallas Keuchel, 31.

Bryant, the Cubs’ union representative, has never feared going year to year toward free agency and remains open to any talks the Cubs might want to initiate.

He said this week he does not feel obligated to try free agency to represent the union as one its leaders or as a potential market setter.

“I think it’s about what each individual wants,” he said. “I feel like I’ve done a great job representing their interests in terms of being kind of the spokes-guy for the service-time manipulation stuff. I’ve done a bunch to speak out on what I think is going on and what I think is right.

“But when it comes to big money like that, it just comes down to the individual and what they think and what their family needs,” he said. “I can talk till I’m blue in the face about this, but at the end of the day, it’s what I want as a human being and as a player in this great game.”