In a column about the Cubs’ slow – but unfinished – offseason, and the impact of the Kris Bryant service time grievance on that process, the Tribune’s David Haugh drops a line that I think is worth sharing, even if only to provide us hope that the long national nightmare could soon be over.
Per Haugh: “Not until the Cubs get a Bryant decision can they consider any major moves. The Cubs expect news within the next week or so but privately have acknowledged frustration with the drawn-out process.”
Within the next week or so, eh? That time line squares with both the submission of final(?) briefs in late December and also the exchange of arbitration figures this week. That is to say, I kinda wondered if the arbitrator would use this week as one last chance to see if the sides would settle (since they’ll be negotiating Bryant’s 2020 salary anyway), and then, if no settlement deal came (and it won’t), he would release his decision soon thereafter. Maybe early next week? A guy can dream.
In any event, it’s going to be very weird when this decision is handed down, as we’ve been living with this issue for literally five years. I can only imagine how weird it is to finally be at this moment for Bryant and for the Cubs.
I wrote recently about why it’s taken this long for the grievance to proceed, both in the initial few years, and then in this actual arbitration process. I can understand why it’s dragged on, but I also very much can identify with the Cubs’ frustration that it did not resolve much more quickly this offseason. For the league and the Players Association, this case is about “bigger fish to fry” – the upcoming CBA negotiations – and it stinks that the Cubs’ offseason has been held hostage to that process. (I mean, their own plan to shop Bryant before they could engage in any serious offseason maneuvering is a huge part of the hold-up, too, so let’s not let them entirely off the hook.)
Hopefully the Cubs are right, and a decision is coming very soon. Most expect that Bryant will not prevail – the Cubs’ behavior with respect to his call-up was fairly well justified given precedent and injuries – but if he does, he’ll be a free agent after the 2020 season, and the Players Association will have all the ammo they need to suggest that the current service time system is effed, and it absolutely must be overhauled in the next CBA. (It should be, regardless of this decision.)
If Bryant were to prevail, we’ll see whether the Cubs continue to shop him with just one cheap arbitration year left of control, instead of one cheap year and one pricier year. His trade value would be greatly diminished, but perhaps not so much that the Cubs might not proceed with a trade.
If the Cubs prevail, however, you can fully expect trade talks to accelerate rapidly. That doesn’t mean a trade will ultimately be consummated, but, from where I sit, the Cubs absolutely need to seriously consider offers as soon as the grievance is resolved.