At last check, we were stressing because the decision on the Kris Bryant service time grievance might not come until the Winter Meetings, which really threatens to muck up the early part of the offseason for the Cubs and much of the league.
Well, it turns out that, while that might still be true, the *HEARING* for his grievance wasn’t even over yet!
Also this week: Kris Bryant's grievance hearing resumed. So will still be a bit before we get that decision.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) November 4, 2019
Resumed! The hearing was originally being heard back on the week of October 21! My word.
So, yeah, let that be a further underscore for just how critically important this particular grievance is for the league and the Players Association. The idea that “service time manipulation” can officially be smacked down and you might lose an entire year of control over a player? It would fundamentally change the way teams operate with top prospects. To be sure, they’d almost certainly still try to gain extra control, but they’d have to be even more careful about it, I suppose.
Bryant’s was the best test case for the players, since he was a clear top prospect who’d put together a dominating Spring Training, then didn’t make the team, and then was called up on the very first day the Cubs gained an extra year of control. The Players Association must desperately want to win this case, because they’re not going to get a better one.
From the Cubs’ perspective, they certainly do have lots of explanations for their decisions that fall within “baseball judgment” – they prefer to debut prospects during the season (and have done so consistently), they suffered two injuries at third base in the early part of that season, Bryant had very little professional experience before 2015, etc. The Cubs have plenty of arguments they can make that holding Bryant back at that time wasn’t *solely* about manipulating service time.
I’ll say again, in my view, the solution here is a fundamental change to the way service time is calculated as it relates to free agency – maybe it becomes tied to age instead of years in the big leagues; or maybe it’s a total number of years after you’re drafted or signed in IFA, depending on the age you’re first signed. Or at least shrink years of control from six to five or something so that younger players are able to get paid sooner. There are a million possible solutions that are better than the system now.
But that’s a fight for another day. For now, it’s the Kris Bryant test case. And while it’s viewed as a league/player issue, ultimately, most of the impact will fall on Bryant and the Cubs, specifically. If the players prevail, Bryant is suddenly set to be a free agent after this coming season, and the Cubs’ plans might change dramatically. If the Cubs prevail, they still have him for two years, and now the grievance specter is done looming.
It sure would be nice if the sides could just settle before a decision comes, though. Maybe a nice two-year, $50 million deal? Good money for Bryant, good cost certainty for the Cubs?