MLB, Cubs hope to resolve Kris Bryant's grievance concerning service-time manipulation
Bryant is a day short of qualifying for free agency after the 2020 season
The Chicago Cubs announced on Thursday that former backstop succeeding Joe Maddon, who was permitted to leave at season's end. With due respect to Ross, more substantive news on the franchise's direction could be coming soon.
According to David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago and Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs and Major League Baseball are holding a grievance hearing to resolve Kris Bryant's longstanding dispute with the organization as it pertains to service-time manipulation.
Baseball uses "service time" to determine when a player is eligible for free agency. A player can be credited with up to 172 days in a season, which in turn represents a full "year" of time. After achieving six "years" of service, a player can then file for free agency after the season. Bryant, who has four years and 171 days of service, is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2021 season. Had he been promoted one day earlier, he would've hit the open market after 2020.
Remember, the Cubs sent Bryant to the minors until the ninth game of their season, claiming he needed to work on his defense. Teams always claim this, since it's nearly impossible to disprove. As Bryant told Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic, he saw few fielding opportunities during his minor-league stint before he was deemed ready for big-league duty. "Now I can look back on it and just laugh about it because I was told to work on my defense … and I think I got three groundballs in those games that I played. So it's like, 'Oh, now he's ready.'"
The Cubs will likely contend that Bryant's promotion was legitimate and in response to then-starting third baseman Mike Olt suffering a fractured wrist. It's unclear what resolution the sides hope to reach. Bryant's camp, presumably, would like credit for that extra day, which would allow him to become free-agent eligible after the 2020 season -- or, perhaps, financial compensation for delaying, if not suppressing his earning potential. The Cubs might instead propose an extension, although front-office members with other teams have told CBS Sports they expect Chicago to look to trade Bryant this winter as part of a roster makeover.
Whatever happens could have ramifications elsewhere, as service-time manipulation and wage suppression have become rampant across the league. Some have noted there are potential legal arguments at play concerning teams operating in bad faith.
Bryant has since enjoyed a fruitful big-league run. He's averaged more than five Wins Above Replacement during his big-league career, and has hit .284/.385/.516 (136 OPS+) while winning the 2015 Rookie of the Year and 2016 Most Valuable Player Awards. He's also made three All-Star teams and was, obviously, a big part of the Cubs' 2016 world championship squad.
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