We always knew that, regardless of the outcome or the impact on the Cubs and Kris Bryant, his service time grievance case was going to have wide-reaching implications for the league and the Players Association as they work toward a new CBA, to kick in after the conclusion of the 2021 season.
Sure enough, with the decision now apparently fully and finally out there – Bryant lost the grievance, and will remain under team control through 2021 – the MLBPA is making a point to comment publicly:
NEW YORK, Feb. 4 – Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark today issued the following statement regarding the decision made in the Kris Bryant service-time grievance:
“The Players Association disagrees with the decision issued today in the Kris Bryant service-time grievance. While we respect the finality of that decision, we will continue to pursue any and all measures that incentivize competition, discourage service-time manipulation and ensure clubs field their best players. We applaud Kris’ courage and determination in challenging the Cubs’ actions and seeing the grievance through to the end.”
On the one hand, this is simply a necessary statement from the union when one of its players goes through an important process for the greater good. Proceeding with the grievance was always about more than just trying to right by Bryant. It was partly Bryant trying to do right by the players who come after him. For that, he does deserve credit.
On the other hand, this statement is the beginning of the MLBPA teeing the service time issue right back up for CBA negotiations. Just yesterday, Evan Drellich wrote about that very thing at The Athletic:
After the Kris Bryant grievance, where do players turn to address service-time manipulation? The next CBA. https://t.co/44A7YDpWUa
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 3, 2020
With the grievance decision in hand, teams now have even more latitude to delay the debut of top prospects in order to gain an extra year of team control, and, in turn, push off a player’s entrance into free agency by a year. We can debate the morality of such an operation to no end, but the reality is that, with the current CBA in place – and with this challenge to it failing – teams have almost no reason to call up top prospects on day one out of Spring Training.
Thus, if you want to see a more fair setup for players and more of an incentive for teams to push for the best 26 players on day one, you should very much like that the MLBPA is pushing on this issue already. It’ll require some serious negotiating, but uncoupling free agency from the current idea of “service time” should be one of the top priorities in the new CBA.
Maybe free agency will be tied to age. Maybe it will be tied to the date a guy was drafted or signed. Maybe it will be tied to time on the 40-man roster or time in the minor leagues. Whatever. There are a lot of versions I’ve seen discussed that I could get behind. But something other than the current system is necessary if you want to see younger players getting more of a share of the revenue pie, which only seems fair given the way the game has trended (and the way the middle class of free agency has been crushed).