Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

kris bryant cubs watchingThe Players Association has long rattled sabers about what they term service time manipulation regarding young players. You know the drill: ostensibly for baseball reasons, but almost certainly partly for financial reasons, teams keep players in the minor leagues longer than they might otherwise in order to gain an extra year of control or to avoid higher costs in arbitration.

With a free agency system, there will always be a cutoff. And when there’s a cutoff, teams will do a dance.

Unfortunately for the Chicago Cubs, the MLBPA decided their dance with Kris Bryant – which left him a day short of a full service year in 2015 – was one step too many.

Jeff Passan reports that a grievance has been filed against the Cubs, either by or on behalf of Kris Bryant. If the grievance went the players’ way, Bryant would presumably be credited with a full year of service time in 2015, and would thus be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season, instead of his presently-scheduled free agency after 2021. It could mean a huge, huge financial difference for Bryant. And it could mean having to lose one of their best players in his prime a year early for the Cubs.

If you’ll recall, this has been on the table for quite a while, and we most recently discussed it back in April. Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, had a very public war of words with Cubs President Theo Epstein back in Spring Training, with the MLBPA chastising the Cubs, and the Commissioner seeming to chastise the MLBPA. If you want the deep dive on these issues, I highly recommend reading those posts. Together, they cover what you need to know. The only factual element I’d add here is that, while Bryant wound up a suspicious ONE day short of a full service year, you have to remember the context of his call-up: both Tommy La Stella and Mike Olt had been hurt in the first week and a half of the season, and the Cubs were scrambling at third base.

Also, keep in mind that this is all coming against the backdrop of a new CBA, which is presently being negotiated to replace the one that expires after 2016. Bryant and the Cubs (together with Maikel Franco, who is also in Yahoo’s report) just became instrumental elements of that negotiation, like it or not.

Now we await a resolution.

Hopefully this won’t actually reach an arbitrator and turn ugly, because for now, it’s easy enough to keep things neutral: Bryant is doing his part for his union (because he’s the *perfect* case to take on this issue), and the Cubs were simply doing what they deemed best for the organization (and something that *all* organizations due). Neither of them has to be the “bad” guy in this situation. It’s just a system that encourages this kind of thing, and it needs to be further negotiated. So, now it will be.

UPDATE: A for what it’s worth from Cubs GM Jed Hoyer:

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