Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant has lost his service time grievance against his team, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Bryant had been seeking an extra year of service time, which would have made him a free agent after the 2020 season, but the decision means that Bryant will still become a free agent following the 2021 season.
Bryant originally filed the grievance following his 2015 rookie season, accusing the Cubs of manipulating his service time so they could gain an extra year of team control. If a player spends 172 or more days on an active major league roster, they’re credited with a full year of service time. The Cubs called Bryant up to the majors on April 17, 2015, which allowed him to accumulate 171 days of service time — one day short of gaining a full year of service time, which delayed his free agency until 2021.
Manipulating service time is against the rules in Major League Baseball, but proving that a team did it is difficult even when it seems obvious, as it does in Bryant’s case. Difficulty aside, there has been no explanation for why it took over four years for this grievance to be resolved.
Bryant’s loss is the Cubs’ gain. Now that Bryant’s free agency date is confirmed and he has two full seasons left with the Cubs, the Cubs are in a strong position to trade Bryant for a big return. The Cubs have signed just two free agents this offseason, both in the last week, and seem more concerned with cutting payroll than building a winning team. Trading Bryant, who will make $18.6 million in 2020, could be part of that plan.
In their quest for an extra year of Bryant’s prime, the Cubs may have accidentally created a labor advocate. Since filing the grievance, Bryant has spoken up on issues like service time and MLB free agency, and he was named as the Cubs’ player representative for the MLB Players Association. With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire in 2021, service time is likely to be a major issue when MLB and the MLBPA start negotiating the new CBA. It seems likely that Bryant will to continue to be outspoken about service time and other issues that affect him and all MLB players.
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