The league, the Players Association, and the Chicago Cubs have known about Kris Bryant’s service time grievance for literal years at this point. And although I can understand why both sides may have been reluctant to proceed to a hearing until they knew an extension was unlikely, I found it exceptionally galling that the hearing was to play out in the early part of this offseason – you know, the offseason when the Cubs really need to make a decision about trading Bryant or seriously trying to commit to an extension – without a plan for a prompt decision in place.
It is a decision that will either keep the status quo – Bryant under team control for two more years – or suddenly accelerate him toward free agency a year earlier. And if he indeed wins, and the decision doesn’t come out until after the bulk of the offseason is over? What a tremendous screw-job for the Cubs.
Is it an important case with far-reaching implications for the upcoming CBA? Absolutely. If the players were to win on Bryant’s behalf, then “service time manipulation” becomes a very real problem for teams, and the players can use that as a bargaining chip to perhaps change the way team control works. This is a critical case, and Bryant’s situation was perfect for it. I get it. I’m not trying to short-change anyone on the process.
So they decided (whoever “they” is in this instance) to have the hearing after the postseason, and now they are affording the arbitrator plenty of time to make a decision. But after the hearing was completed over a month ago, we’re still waiting on an actual decision – a decision that necessarily is holding up how the Cubs and other teams proceed with respect to Bryant’s availability (to say nothing of a theoretical price tag).
And that decision may not even be coming soon!
This is a hurdle to a Bryant trade. Arbitrator has to decide whether he’s a free agent in 1 year or 2, and that decision could still be several weeks away. Of course always possible contingent deals could be struck depending on the ruling. https://t.co/rbEpH3lDe6
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 9, 2019
To be sure, Heyman says “could be” and “several weeks”, so there’s a lot of play there. Maybe he doesn’t even really know, and is speaking generally. But with his frequent proximity to Scott Boras rumors, you wonder if perhaps he does have a little extra information from Bryant’s agent.
And as intriguing as contingent deals sounds (i.e., hypothetical: the Cubs have already worked out a trade with the Braves if the ruling is two years, and have worked out a trade with the Phillies if the ruling is one year), you’d be asking so many other teams and free agents to hold up their process while awaiting the decision unless there is ZERO overlap between these theoretical trades and any other activity anywhere else in the market. That seems extraordinarily unlikely.
Do the Cubs maybe have some rough parameters and ideas in place? Sure. Do they maybe have a deal in place if the decision were to come down in the next couple days? Sure. But an indefinite holding pattern extending out weeks? Nah. I don’t see it.
I understand these are complicated issues, and the arbitrator understands that he/she must nail this decision and the language attached thereto because of the broad implications. But, even in the slow-moving legal world, it isn’t at all unreasonable to expect a decision on a narrow case like this – where time is of the essence – in a month’s time.
Whatever actually winds up happening with the Cubs and with Bryant, I just think everyone involved wants to know where things stand. Let’s get there already.