Kris Bryant Grievance Decision, Marquee Deal with Comcast Could Come in January

More than four years after it was filed and more than two months after the actual hearings took place, Kris Bryant’s service time grievance may finally be coming to an end. Not until at least January, though. According to Evan Drellich of The Athletic, briefs from both sides were due to arbitrator Mark Irvings Friday. However, he’s still got to sort through hundreds of pages and will not have a decision until some point in early 2020.

That’s not good news for the Cubs, who need to have clarity on Bryant’s control if they’re indeed intent on trading him. They also need to see where Josh Donaldson lands, and that may not be settled in the next few days either. There’s also the matter of Nolan Arenado potentially being on the block, though his market is also dependent upon Donaldson.

A potential Bryant trade has been one of the offseason’s biggest storylines, but it takes second billing to the Cubs’ financial concerns. While there’s no need to go deep on that topic here, it’s worth your time to check out Brett Taylor’s research into the true costs of exceeding the competitive balance threshold for a second time. It’s a matter of money the Cubs might miss out on in terms of rebates and revenue sharing rather than actively having to pay penalties, but there’s more to it than just a couple million bucks.

Also at play is the viability of the new Marquee Sports Network, which at last estimation had only achieved about 40% of its desired market carriage. Their existing deals are headlined by AT&T’s family of providers, which spans the entire territory, with Mediacom and Charter Communications expanding the Cubs’ availability in Iowa and some other areas of the Midwest. But there’s still one monster out there to slay.

That would be Comcast, the dominant provider in the Chicago market, with which the Cubs had only just begun negotiations in early November. It’s an interesting dynamic because Comcast is hemorrhaging subscribers as people cut the cable cord and the Cubs absolutely need to have as many households as possible in order to max out revenues. Loyalty is at stake as well, since having millions of fans unable to watch would be a bitter pill for a fanbase cultivated by WGN.

As such, it only makes sense that the two sides will eventually come to an agreement. Sources tell Cubs Insider that a carriage deal between Marquee and Comcast is a “foregone conclusion” and that it could be announced soon. It sort of has to be with the network set to go live in February in time for spring training. Gee, if only there was a big fan event coming up soon at which the Cubs could announce that their network was available to nearly every fan in their designated market.

Oh wait, Cubs Convention is just a few weeks away. Gotta think the business operations team would like to flash that shiny object when little else has created positive PR over the last two months.

The Bryant and Marquee deals are not necessarily connected, at least not directly. There’s absolutely a tie-in when you throw everything in under the financial umbrella, but it’s not like getting Comcast to carry Marquee will mean the Cubs won’t try to trade Bryant. You’d think it would actually behoove the organization to have as many photogenic superstars as possible in the first year of a new TV network, but it’s clear they’re not playing for just the 2020.

We should know more on both matters soon, but don’t worry about having to sneak away from any family or company holiday parties to get the skinny on breaking news.

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