When word came out that Kris Bryant’s service time grievance would be heard this week, the timing seemed extremely logical, because both sides were going to want to know how much longer he was under team control – one year or two years – before proceeding with the offseason.
Heck, all of baseball was going to want to know because of the ripple effects, from the trade market (for Bryant or alternatives) to the free agent market (from Bryant alternatives to guys the Cubs might want to sign). We’ve seen in recent years how much one or two really significant players can slow the entire market to a crawl.
So, obviously, the case would be heard this week, and a decision would likely come down in the next week or two. It’s obvious.
Except … what the hell:
MLB arbitrator Mark Irvings heard the Kris Bryant grievance over last few days in NY; he’s expected to take months to rule. The union claim is the Cubs unfairly manipulated Bryant’s service time when they called him up after 12 days in minors in 2015. Boras, Theo both testified.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 25, 2019
A typical arbitration case might take a week. A PED investigation might take a few weeks. Domestic violence investigations can take a month. But a case that’s already been argued, and has been around for FOUR YEARS is going to take multiple months to simply decide?
That could threaten to completely blow up the Cubs’ ability to properly plan here in the early going of the offseason, and again, thanks to the ripple effects, could completely jack up the entire market. Consider me extremely skeptical that it’ll actually take until December or January for this to be resolved. I get that it’s a test case for an extremely important issue (service time manipulation) but this has been teed up for four years. A decision taking multiple months is flatly unacceptable.
I can’t help but wonder if this information is coming from Scott Boras’s camp. A delay like this could only stand to benefit his client in extension talks, or even in just settlement talks. As laid out, the Cubs have an extraordinarily strong interest in having this thing decided ASAP. So if it drags on long – or at least publicly threatens to drag on long – then the Cubs are at a disadvantage in any negotiations.
My gut still says we either see a much quicker decision than multiple months, or we see the sides settle early. Either Bryant gets a two-year deal that covers the would-be two years under team control, OR he gets a really good contract for 2020 (i.e., higher than arb projections) in exchange for dropping the case. I tend to doubt a long-term extension is going to come together at this time, but it’s not out of the question – indeed, this whole thing could be about applying a little bit of leverage on that front. I won’t rule it out.
Let’s see if the Cubs say anything about the timeline in the coming weeks when they meet with the media. They aren’t going to comment on the case, itself, or on the merits. They shouldn’t. But they could at least comment on whether they do see this being a multiple month situation, and, if so, how that impacts their ability to be truly openminded on what they do this offseason. Because obviously, if you’re a potential trade partner looking at Bryant, you would absolutely not give up a two-year return package for Bryant when you suddenly might get him for only one year. And for the Cubs, if they suddenly knew they had Bryant for only one more year, might it fundamentally alter the kind of free agents and trades they might seek or be aggressive on?