Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Could the Cubs really lose Kris Bryant after 2020?

So it seems that the players' union is seriously going to pursue getting service time credited to Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (along with Maikel Franco of the Phillies), essentially advancing free agency by a full year in the process. The Cubs placed Bryant at AAA-Iowa for 12 days to start the 2015 season before calling him up and watching him earn the Rookie of the Year title over the rest of the year.

The total of 12 days was not a random number but was in fact the exact amount of days the Cubs needed to keep Bryant off of the roster in order to retain him through the 2021 season. If the players' union is successful and is able to get any service time credited for the 12 days, Chicago would have to bid for Bryant's services as a free agent a year sooner, following the 2020 season.

This is absurd, right?

First of all, the players' union bargained for this. It was an agreement. You can't get everything you want, give some to the other side, and then come back later and say, "Never mind, we want to change one of those things we agreed to."

Honestly, the Cubs may have kept Bryant in the minors as long as they needed to, even if the magic date had been in June or July. There is no current formula in place yet to establish when a player is 100 percent Major League ready. So regardless of what player agents want to tell us, the team still has the right to bring a player up when it wants to. There are rules in place (Rule 5, arbitration periods, etc.) to protect the player and to prevent a team from doing it beyond a few years. But the Cubs had every right last season to do what it did. The established period was 12 days. They followed the rules.

If it ever did come down to proving Bryant was kept down and brought up due to anything other than a matter of service time (and the 2021 season), Chicago could easily point to injuries to Tommy La Stella and Mike Olt, who were both placed on the disbaled list in April 2015. But it shouldn't have to.

On the other hand, I feel like Chicago could also argue that it would've played Bryant beginning on Opening Day if the team had known that the CBA deal would be changed later. Of course, the team lost the division by a few games, and even though the Cubs beat both the Pirates and the Cardinals in the playoffs, a division title would've been even better. Winning just an extra game or two in April could've led to hosting a home game for the one-game playoff with Pittsburgh, along with the extra gate revenue that game provides.

If anything is changed, it should be from this point moving forward. I don't see legally how or why they should be able to go back and change an agreement. That sounds like a terrible precedent to set. And yes, as a Cubs fan, I selfishly want Bryant around for at least one extra season.

Of course, it'll be interesting to see how this all turns out in five years or so. There are so many possibilities at this point, including a contract extension, a trade, or even some type of injury, among other things that could happen. But if the Cubs win the 2021 World Series, led by Kris Bryant in the final year of his original contract, we know people will look back at those 12 days in April 2015 and say that ultimately the team did the right thing and followed the rules to which everyone had agreed.

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