Kris Bryant Loses Grievance with Cubs, Still Under Club Control for Two Years

Kris Bryant’s camp knew from the start that they were almost certain to lose the grievance they filed against the Cubs in 2015 over the manipulation of his service time. As the decision from MLB arbitrator Mark Irving’s dragged out, however, some began to wonder whether things would go in Bryant’s favor. While the official decision has not yet been made official, ESPN’s Jeff Passan has learned from sources that the Cubs have indeed won the decision and still maintain two years of contractual control over the superstar third baseman.

This decision has loomed over the offseason like a dark cloud, presumably preventing the Cubs from making any moves as they waited to find out how much value Bryant would have in a potential trade. As teams more ready to compete right now seek a middle-of-the-order bat, it’s possible the Cubs could restock their farm system while also getting well below the luxury tax threshold. But wait, aren’t the Cubs saying they want to compete this year and next? Moving Bryant would be a clear sign to the contrary.

Stay tuned for more on this and expect to hear all manner of rumors cropping up over the coming days.

Those of you who’ve been reading CI or following me on Twitter over the past few years already know this, but I think it bears repeating that this grievance was never about Bryant wanting to hasten his departure from Chicago. He’s not happy about the situation that led to his free agency being deferred for a year and he’s openly criticized the practice in general, but he’s also said he would love to remain a Cub for life.

That’s not just lip service because Bryant really means it, but he isn’t naive enough to believe that he’s going to get everything he wants. As we’ve all seen many times before, the business side of the game usually holds sway over druthers. From the start, this grievance was a matter of principle. It’s what drove Bryant to become a leader — yes, I said leader — in the players’ union, for which the service time rules figure to be an integral part of the negotiations for the next CBA.

Bryant and his camp knew when they filed the grievance all the way back in 2015 that they weren’t going to win. That’s part of the reason they were cool with it dragging out as long as it did, though no one assumed it would end up taking this long. Rather than being some kind of cudgel with which Bryant or Scott Boras, his agent, could strike back at the Cubs, this process has always been about preventing future occurrences of service-time shenanigans.

The erroneous perception of Bryant as some kind of greedy prima donna is probably never going to go away, which is somewhat understandable because it’s difficult for most people to really put the situation in perspective. They see a guy making $18.6 million or hear the reports that he turned down an extension worth “well north of $200 million” and they can only think in terms of their own willingness to jump at such princely sums. And I get that. I love writing, but I’d accept a fraction of that wealth to walk away from CI forever. Don’t go getting any ideas, though, since the only people in my general orbit who might have the money to make that happen aren’t even spending it on actual players.

What you have to keep in mind here is that professional athletes don’t operate on the same scale as you or me. And as the most visible example of this service-time situation, Bryant feels a responsibility to look out for more than just his own well-being. So yeah, he’s pissed about what led to this in the first place, but it’s bigger than just him and the Cubs.

The unfortunate reality here is that the Cubs’ victory, if you can really even calm it that, might have done more to hasten Bryant’s departure than had he won. His trade value is higher due to the additional year of control, so the team may now see fit to move him as they operate under strict budget guidelines for at least the remainder of this season. But if you’re the Pollyanna sort, and I’ll admit that I remain so in this particular case, the possibility still exists that Bryant inks an extension.

With the rigamarole of the grievance behind them, perhaps the two sides can sit down and put together a deal that kicks in next season. The Cubs would be free from the onerous penalties imposed by the CBA for going over the CBT — make of that characterization of their motives what you will — and Bryant’s contractual value is now more firmly established. By that I mean everyone knows approximately how much arbitration salary an extension would have to buy out and can proceed accordingly.

Apologies to those of you for whom this is repetitive, but I’ve been yelling into the online void for a while now and have little more than convoluted echoes to show for it. Regardless of how you view the situation and how you want it to play out, we can all agree that it’s good to have closure on a decision that took far too long to complete.

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