Wow. When you wait on something for literally five years, it takes a minute to digest the reality when it actually comes to a conclusion.
Here’s the report for now, and much more is coming when I catch my breath:
BREAKING: Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant has lost his grievance against the team seeking an extra year of service, sources familiar with the ruling tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 29, 2020
With the situation finalized, and teams knowing they would get two years of control of Bryant rather than one, you can expect trade talks to accelerate. Possibly rapidly.
UPDATE: OK. The many implications running through my mind at this moment:
- We have assumed that the Cubs have already long been engaged in trade talks – hypotheticals and alternatives – but it’s possible no one was keen on getting to serious or specific until this was actually complete. Now it is. The chains are off, and we’ll see just how serious the Cubs are about entertaining trade offers for Bryant, something I think they should be doing immediately. That is not necessarily to say the Cubs *SHOULD* trade Bryant, but in my view, they absolutely need to find out what a deal *COULD* look like ASAP.
- Bryant likely never expected to win this grievance, but it’s now confirmed that he’s two years away from free agency, rather than one. He’s already signed for 2020 ($18.6 million), and he’ll get another year of arbitration next year. With a good, healthy season in 2020, he could conceivably push for $25 million or more in 2021. Not what he would get in free agency, and it increases his risk that the monster deal will never come, but still – at least it’s a healthy sum. In the end, though, this process does suck for Bryant.
- Speaking of which, this decision confirms that the hurdle to prove a team violated the CBA when playing service time games is extremely high. The Cubs did have explanations for why Bryant was called up on the very day they got another year of control (multiple injuries at third base, preferring to hold prospects for a debut on the road, working on his defense, etc.), but not every team does. This decision keeps all those teams safe when holding down top prospects.
- … until the new CBA is negotiated, and I very much hope a new structure for free agency/arbitration is put in place to avoid these issues. Tie free agency/arbitration to age. Tie them to the year a player is drafted or signed. Something like that. Incentivize teams to call guys up when they’re ready to compete and can still be developed properly. That’s really all we want to see.
- Hey, thanks for forestalling the arbitration decision just long enough for Nick Castellanos to sign with another team, by the way. I’ll try to bite my tongue a little bit and hope that maybe everyone already knew what was happening by the time Castellanos signed (and it’s not like there’s any guarantee the Cubs would’ve traded Bryant and signed Castellanos anyway). But still, the timing sure looks like it was perfectly awful, and the Cubs missed out on a chance to retain a guy who was perfect for their lineup and who clearly wanted to return. It was 70% their own fault, and 30% the fault of this unbelievably long arbitration decision. It pisses me off.
- Oh, one more: It’s worth pointing out, for however unlikely we on the outside might think an extension to be, the certainty on Bryant’s team control (something the sides haven’t had for five years) could theoretically open the door to renewed extension talks.