A pair of outstanding rookie third basemen, Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Maikel Franco of the Phillis, have filed grievances claiming that their service time was manipulated in an effort to delay their future entry onto the free agent market, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports.
No shortage of attention will be paid to these cases. Bryant, of course, won the National League’s Rookie of the Year award, while Franco might have staked his own claim to that title had he not been injured late in the year. In that regard, then, the stakes are high for the players and teams; if a panel were to award additional service time, both would stand to qualify one year earlier for free agency.
Most important of all, however is the heightened relevance of the matter with collective bargaining talks set to begin in earnest. The matter of whether, when, and why top young players are brought up to the majors — and thus begin accruing credit for time spent on an active MLB roster — has long seemed an area ripe for consideration (if not acrimony) between the league and the player’s association.
For those unfamiliar with how things work, teams have a powerful incentive to hold back talented young players — even those they believe to be ready for the majors — to slow their march towards free agency. A less powerful, but also relevant incentive exists to keep a player down long enough to prevent them from qualifying for “Super Two” arbitration status.
A player only accrues a full season of MLB service when he reaches 172 days on the active roster (that includes off days), and it takes six full seasons of service time to reach free agency. As a practical matter, then, teams can milk nearly seven years of control over players if they just keep them in the minors for a few weeks at the start of the year.
Indeed, that’s exactly what happened with Bryant and Franco, who accrued 171 and 170 days of service last year, respectively. While there were surely legitimate baseball reasons that also supported the decisions to start those players in the minors, it’s not hard to see what line of argument their agents will pursue.
Of course, many such matters are resolved before they get to a hearing, though in these cases it would seem a creative arrangement would be necessary. It will be most interesting to see how things proceed between the larger entities with stakes in the pair of disputes: MLB and the MLBPA. The sides have about a year to negotiate a new CBA, and the service-time issue presents not only a point of possible contention, but also rather a tricky problem to solve in practice even if agreement on a general direction can be found. While bargaining could certainly override any precedent struck in a hypothetical grievance, a victory in front of an arbitration panel would transfer leverage to one side or the other.
It’s all Scott Borus pulling at the strings…what a jerk!
I feel that these guys have legitimate arguments though, Bryant more so than Franco. Bryant tore up AAA last year and had an amazing Spring, then gets called up a day or so after his ‘magic day’ or whatever you want to call it.
Then change the labor agreement. It was bargained for. The owners have a right per the labor agreement to bring up the the player later if they choose. If the players don’t like it, make it an issue in the next CBA.. They did not care in the last CBA.
I feel like they’ll probably end up putting some kind of hard-line of top draft picks or something. 6 years in the majors or 8 years after the draft, or something. But there’s always going to have to be a line.
What argument does he have? Where in his contract or in MLB’s contract does it say he has to be brought up to the ML club based on his production? IF the Cubs wanted he could have spent all of 2015, and all of 2016 and 2017 in AAA, and there’s not a damn thing he can do about it.
It bothers me that players who do not like the rules, the way they are written feel they can just scream “Not Fair” and file a grievance. The contract between the players and owners is very clear on this.
I don’t see anyway a “panel” could possibly see it in favour of the players in this case – the teams did nothing wrong.
Want to change it? Bargain for it in the next round of negotiations.
End of argument – period..
The panel can rule in favour of the players and be very much within the bargained deal. Service clock manipulation is banned under the agreement.
There will be some very real difference of opinions between a team and agent as to when a player is “ready”. A team may want a pitcher to develop his off speed stuff, even though he is blowing away hitters with just his fastball. It may actually be beneficial to the player to develop those pitches, in the long term. Some panel is going to decide who’s right? I sure hope not. It may look fairly clear on Bryant, but it will set a precedent for every case. Set the rules through collective bargaining, and then let the teams play by those rules.
The panel is there to air grievances and rule accordingly, but I can’t imagine a contract that would “ban” anything that would be legal under the strict wording of the agreement. For that matter, all contracts are “manipulated”, simply by taking advantage of those aspects of any agreement that one finds favorable to them. Players do it all the time; Greinke is a great example, so it’s ok if the players do it but it should be banned for the owners? Regardless, I’ve read the CBA and don’t recall anything specific about “service clock manipulation”, or even a similar phrase.
Cubs have a legitimate excuse though… Bryant came up right after some injuries left the Cubs short at 3rd.. Which just so happened to be on his magic service time day..
Bingo. That will be the argument, and a compelling one.
The fact that swollen head Bryant thinks he should have been called up sooner isn’t his call to make. There are tons of players in the minor league who are major-league ready who are blocked.
When the position was unblocked, Bryant was called up. Don’t be an ingrate Bryant!
He only got called up because both Olt and La Stella got injured super early in the season. Had Olt stayed Healthy I bet Bryant doesn’t get called up until around May 1st. I think it is BS to be honest. Why have this stipulation in the CBA if you don’t like it. It’s not like the players are abused in MLB. MLB’s CBA is easily the most player friendly CBA of all the major sports and probably most unions in general. This is one of extremely few loopholes that GMs and teams can take advantage of. If this goes any further than a grievance MLB might as well just rip up the current CBA since judges will just rule in favor of players regardless it seems. Kris Bryant in his 3 years of minor league and major league baseball experience he’s made over $7.2M. I think he’s been more than fairly compensates. in 2-3 years when he’s eligible for arbitration (if not signed to an extension by then) he’ll get his. He’ll be entering FA after his age 28 season….. he’ll get his money soon enough. I am just amazed at the sheer level of greed the modern day athlete has. Bryant signed a $6.7M signing bonus at age 21. He got the league minimum which is a “lowly” half million bucks. How much money do people seriously need? It’s like David Price. He is on record for saying that he wanted and would be interested to player for the Cubs and Maddon again. Instead he takes $217M from Boston instead of an “insulting” $161M offered by the Cubs. Because how can anyone live comfortably on ONLY $161M. He’d need to get a part time job after baseball just to get by on a $161M deal….. *eye roll*. It’s all about the dollar signs with players nowadays and it is sad. They are just as much the reason as owners (if not more) that it has gotten so friggin expensive to go to any sporting event now. If I went to a Cubs game alone it would easily be a $100+ trip. $50 a ticket. $40 for parking (if you’re lucky). And at least $20 on food and a single beer. Bears and Hawks games are even more ridiculous now. I remember before everyone in the Chicago area jumped on the Hawks bandwagon I’d go to hawks games and get center ice tickets on the lower level for like $30. You’ll spend $200 on those same tickets today. Standing room only tickets cost $42 at the UC for a Hawks game. It costs $40+ just to stand in the united center now. Cheapest Bears ticket is $106.
The market determines your value, if you could go to a job for 90k a year or 60k a year, doing the exact same job, what would you choose? You could easily live comfortably on 60k, but obviously you’d take the higher paying job. If it was a 10M difference or so, maybe, but he really didn’t have a choice in the matter, at least in my opinion.
Gotta remember that the Cubs had Olt and La Stella who both put in time at 3B go down with long term injuries for that to happen. There were legitimate concerns with his defense still. When all is said and done what would be the new rule. Moving back the date would still have time manipulation involved. Additionally, at the bargaining table, everyone represented is already in the majors so it won’t be a topic for players unaffected any longer to take a stand on.
What did Boras do? It’s the team blatantly manipulating the service time to delay paying the players. The teams are intentionally holding players in the minors to delay a year of pay and delay how long until they can walk.
A man on Boris a cancer to baseball
Great job pissing off your ROY, cubs. I would demand a trade if I’m him, to teach them a lesson. .
And then they wouldn’t trade him. This isn’t the NBA where cry baby athletes get to throw a hissy fit until their paired with their buddies.
Oh cry me a river … You think Kris Bryant would demand a trade? Haha like he is not loving playing for the Cubs in Chicago in Wrigley Field in that huge market with passionate fans who ador him amd the market giving him the endorsement deals? Ok pal whatever you say ….
Waste of time. The rules are the rules and the MLBPA agreed to them.
MLBPA doesn’t represent minor league players and thus they have no say in the matter.
I agree, it’s all posturing for the next CBA
Service time manipulation is banned under the current CBA, Clubs have to keep players in the minors “baseball” reasons not simply to manipulate their service time. Remember when the Cubs said Bryant was sent down to start the season to work on his defense?
Even though everyone intuitively knows Bryant was sent down based on service time considerations he will have a very hard time proving it.. The Cubs and Phillies will probably win these grievances but the CBA (aka “the rules”) do not allow clubs to keep players in the minor due to service time considerations.
I feel the cubs might let bryant win just so that they dont have bitter feeling when time for an extension comes
What extension? He’s a Boras client.
Please let us know where “service time manipulation” is banned in the CBA. I’m sure it’s implied, but I don’t recall any specific wording related to that. I’m not saying that it isn’t there, I just don’t recall it and would like to know where it is in the contract.
Disappointed that KB let Boras use him like this.
Baseball is Bryant’s job. Sure, he wants to win. But #1 for Kris Bryant is Kris Bryant.
It’s the players union, not Boras
Same thing, isn’t it?
Kershawshank Redemption 2
This will change eventually, though it won’t happen until the next CBA. It’s just silly to keep talented young players down in the minors for the sole reason of saving a buck.
The rule itself works against how baseball should be played: with your 25 best players, not your 25 most cost-effective ones.
What would you do as a business-owner? Bring up a player 30 days or so sooner and guaranteeing you’ll have to pay millions more simply because he was on the team for those 30 days, and then risk losing him a year earlier, or just keep him in the minors? The time they kept Bryant in the minors for is probably worth about $50M…$20M in an extra year of arbitration and $30M for one year of free agency. Seems like smart business to me.
The best 25 players works both ways. how many teams have to carry under performing veterans simply because they cost too much to drop at the expense of younger better players. Agents and players want it both ways. What is the fix- let agents determine when a player gets called up? I see no problem there.
@homer I wish there was a ‘like’ button because your comment deserves 1000 likes.
The only possible way to effect such a rule would be to remove the decision as to the “readiness” of a player from management and assign it to an independent panel, which would not only be ridiculous but impossible to negotiate. No business is going to give up their right to manage personnel.
While I do have a problem with the practice of keeping young players in minors to delay free agency, these grievances being filed don’t come off as being good for the game regarding fans. Might just be my opinion but reading things like this rub me the wrong way.
I dunno, as a fan wouldn’t it be nice to know there aren’t artificial reasons why the best players are not on the field at all times., these are just steps that in the long run benefit the player and the FAN.
If nothing ever benefits the owners/the business, the business will not continue. So much for the employees and the fans. When you see players signing for $25-$30MM/year, its hard to feel sorry for them, or think of the teams as being “money grubbers”, or “miserly”.
Oh come on, I thought we were past this. If Bryant had any sense he’d ditch Boras for someone else. The dude is gonna cause Bryant’s production to decline and give management, players and fans a very bad taste in their mouth.
Ban Boras from Baseball. We will all be better off.
Boras isn’t the problem. He’s just better at doing what everyone else is trying to do.
Boras is the only agent zealously advocating for his client. Boras knows how to read the cba – and he wouldn’t put in the time and energy into filing grievances with out a proper foundation
Boras IS the problem. He just better at being a douche about it.
He’s a galvanizing jerk.
Let the teams do whatever they need to do. They answer to their fan base.
Good lets get the ball rolling towards rules that promote putting the 25 best guys on the field at all times. Have to get the conversation started some how.
How do you address roster spots taken by dead weight over paid veterans? teams should cut them and pay two people for the same position? bad business
Lets charge fans who advocate rules to guarantee the best 25 on the field an additional $10 per ticket for “veteran player early retirement fee”.
Easy way around that: Teams can just say regarding a player, “we don’t think he’s ready”
Unless you have an objective measure to say “best guys”, there’s zero chance to enforcing that.
Well, I defy anyone but a sport’s agent or his family member to claim that the problem in sports nowadays is that the players aren’t getting theirs. Who touches Cliff Lee’s $37.5 M in 2015 for doing nothing. Boras would say, “well that’s the rules,” Precisely. That’s the answer here. I go to fewer games now because baseball has largely priced the middle class out of the market. No one is more responsible for that than Scott Boras, who is a net loss to the sport of baseball.
Growing player contract liability is not the reason for increasing ticket prices. Player contracts are getting significantly larger due to TV deals and shared revenue. Rising ticket (and concession/parking) prices are due to fans continuing to pay the increasing prices.
As evidenced by the fact that one can find relatively cheap tickets in Milwaukee, Denver, Tampa, etc.
Those tickets are cheap because there isn’t as much demand for them.
lots of people seem mad that the players want money. i know it’s hard to hear but whatever money the players miss out on doesn’t go back to the fans. it goes to the owners. the players are why we watch and why we care, i think they deserve to profit from the game more than the owners do
But the owners are actually why we are able to watch. Without the owners providing the teams, you have a bunch of Tuesday night beer league softball players that play after their shift at the factory. Players are employees. Do you get upset that a waitress at Hooters doesn’t make more money than the owner? The waitresses are the primary reason most people go to Hooters, but they make a lot less than the owners of the restaurant. It’s how the world works.
yes, i think the hooters waitresses should form a co-op and seize the means of hooter production
seriously though. this is a high-level discussion that i don’t really have time for today, now that i’ve started it. let me just say a couple things –
1) you can argue that a lot of the value of hooters is whoever came up with the idea for a restaurant like that, presumably the owners. none of these owners came up with the idea for “baseball”
2) the whole idea of “cost-controlled players” is actually pretty anti-free market and only exists because of the anti-trust exemption. in a true free market players would all start out as free agents and big talents like harper and bryant would get massive contracts from the get-go. so consider the implications of that
baseball is one of the few places where the anti-trust thing works because teams don’t compete against each other for baseball dollars, they aren’t trying to eliminate the other teams from existing by dominating their markets. they just want to win games. Players get paid what someone feels they are worth, but if you start telling the owners what to do with their property too much, well you will have another strike or a lockout and there will be no baseball at all. the players shouldn’t have the right to blackmail ownership. I tend to be anti-union as I think everyone is replaceable.
Baseball is the only major sport with anti-trust exemption and none of the others (nba, nfl, nhl) have total free market for rookies.
that’s a fair point. why doesn’t any sport ever have one, then
I think the blanket argument for it is to maintain competitiveness. For example, if every player in the draft could just sign for whatever, with whoever, a team with a payroll like the dodgers would have and even larger advantage.
It’s not that the players want money that is the problem. The players negotiated and agreed to these terms. Now they want to change those at the next CBA negotiations and are using these players as a means to bring the issue to light.
If you have an issue with this, negotiate it at the next CBA, or don’t sign off on it in the first place.
what are the exact rules, though. i feel like when the teams do this they generally have to pretend that they’re keeping the guy down for any reason other than money, which – although i don’t remember any details – suggests to me that there’s at least some kind of rule that technically outlaws doing what all teams obviously actually do, which is manipulate service time callups for purely financial reasons
The team must operate in good faith. Very broad restraints on it.
I”m a big labor supporter, but this is a CBA issue and should be negotiated at that level. The decision of when to bring someone up really needs to be at the reasonable discretion of the team–and remember it’s not done in isolation. You need a place on the active roster, so for everyone brought up, someone has to go down, or be DFA. A much stronger claim can be made if a young player on the roster is performing at a major league level, and is sent down to cool his heels for a couple of weeks (and lose a year).
Harvey for Bryant straight up. Move wright to first and trade Duda for a reliever.
Neither team would do that at all the Cubs won’t get rid of Bryant and the same for Harvey both teams rebuilding and those are who they will rebuild around, the Cubs don’t need Harvey and mets don’t need Bryant so it just wouldn’t make sense
This is a great reason to not ever offer these two a free agent contract ever. Any team they play for is doom by the curse of the greedybastard.
Bad news for Pittsburgh if they award time! Pirates management does this all the time. The kids always need seasoning according to Pirates management.
bring back the reserve clause and let’s get back to watching baseball instead of having to be a damn accountant/lawyer/financial expert to be a fan. stats are fun! this crap is boring and makes the game worse.
I think you’re on the wrong website if you find this stuff boring… because this is the kind of story MLBTR covers.
Minor League players don’t have representation in the MLBPA and therefore do not have a say in the CBA and matters of when they get called up/service time delays that impact their FA rights.
Legitimate beef, IMO.
That’s not the team’s fault. That’s an issue with the MLBPA
I totally understand why Kris Bryant is doing this after the spring he had he should’ve absolutely been the opening day starter, Franco I don’t quite understand, I get why he was left off the opening day roster as he struggled in 2014 and they probably wanted him to have a little more development time
I thought KB was trying to be the new face of baseball. I heard he studied how Jeter used to do interviews/handle himself so that he could be the new Jeter. This is a step in the wrong direction.
Boras is a cancer on baseball
Last I checked, the team decides the roster. Not the player. Or the agent. And teams have every right to call up or not call up a player as they see fit, for whatever the reason. If I were either one of these kids I’d be happy just to be in the big leagues. Boras is bad for baseball.
I don’t think Bryant had anything to do with this action because a couple days ago he was “excited” to be starting his hitting practice to get ready for the season because he said the Cubs were good enough to get to the World Series. This is posturing as a prelude to the next contract negotiations.
So teams can’t make roster decisions based on anything but statistical performance. Demoting one player to AAA because an inferior performing player is out of options happens all the time. Nobody’s upset about that.
We have three or possibly four years of arbitration so that players can make some good money before FA but now THAT isn’t good enough anymore, evidently.
I get the idea that great players who are ready now should be raking in the big leagues rather than stockpiled in the minors to avoid super-2 or delay FA. So, give teams an incentive not to do that. Give them some avenue to get what they want, too.
If Epstein didn’t keep Bryant down those 12 days to keep an extra year of control, fans would have been calling for his head for gross incompetence, and rightfully so.
All my favorite websites keep downgrading their comment sections.
Truth. What’s up with that? 🙁
I gotta side with the players here. I’m not saying the players are right or will win but this is the early steps in changing a system that is a bit defunct. Attention needs to be called to this issue and these guys are leading the way
Franco was sent down because he couldn’t hit the curveball and not because of service time reasons
has anyone filed service time grievances before? and if so, what was the result?