Craig Calcaterra

Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant warms up before Game 3 of the National League baseball championship series against the New York Mets Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Kris Bryant, Maikel Franco file grievances over service time manipulation

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NASHVILLE — Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Maikel Franco of the Phillies have filed grievances alleging service-time manipulation. Passan notes that Bryant finished his rookie season with 171 days of service time and Franco finished with 170. A full season of service time is 172, which means that the free agency clocks for each player has been pushed back a year.

The upshot of the grievances are that the Cubs and Phillies acted in bad faith in making decisions when to call up Bryant and Franco, respectively. In Bryant’s case it’s pretty clear that’s what the Cubs were doing. Indeed, it was much-discussed last spring following his destruction of spring training pitching and his clear superiority over Mike Olt, who began the season as the Cubs’ third baseman. Franco’s case received less attention, but it was telling that the Phillies waited several days after sending Cody Asche to the minors to call Franco up. The delay certainly wasn’t because they didn’t need Franco’s services.

It does not seem like Bryant and Franco have much of a shot at winning, however. Service time rules are pretty cut and dry: days and years are all that matter. There is no intent factor specified and baseball arbitrations are such that arbitrators tend to be quite loathe to wade into complicated decisions regarding a club’s baseball judgment. If a clear rule is violated, sure. But when it comes to the matter of player readiness there are a million different factors in play, most of which depend on baseball expertise for which a arbitrator is not likely to substitute his judgment. Even if it’s clear what was really going on.

As I wrote last spring, filing a grievance in this case seems more aimed at P.R., not righting an actual wrong, both because of that legal calculation and because, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, clubs do have the power to do what they want with their players. These cases may raise issues in advance of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, but they’re not likely to be winners.

Which, sure, sometimes you want to make a public point and if that’s what the union wants, great. If you know baseball labor history, however, you know that Marvin Miller and Don Fehr didn’t give much thought to making public points. They concentrated on picking their battles carefully and winning them. If it was a battle they could not win in the present, they laid the groundwork to win it in the future via negotiation and consensus building within the union.

That’s not a tack the current union seems all that interested in taking. As was the case with PEDs, they seem more concerned with public perception than they used to be. In this case, however, winning is going to take the union looking within and convincing membership to do more to protect the rights of pre-arbitration and pre-free agency players than they do now, not fighting losing battles.

UPDATE: Dodgers deal for Aroldis Chapman not done yet

Aroldis Chapman
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UPDATE: Not so fast my friends. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon says the trade sending Aroldis Chapman to the Dodgers has not been completed and other teams could still be in the mix

The details are sketchy, but perhaps when the identity of the prospects coming back from the Dodgers to Cincinnati wasn’t immediately reported we should have guessed that there was a hitch in the deal here. Updates as warranted, of course.

10:30: AM: The Dodgers may have some rotation questions, but their bullpen is suddenly looking amazing: Ken Rosenthal reports that Los Angeles has acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Reds for two prospects. The identity of the prospects is not known and the deal is pending medicals.

Chapman, of course, is the most dominant reliever in baseball, with a 2.17 ERA and 546 strikeouts in 319 career major league innings. He’ll be paid $8.05 million in 2016 and can then become a free agent. Since the Dodgers only have him for one year, one would assume the prospect package isn’t elite-level, but we don’t know yet. Jon Heyman reports that the prospects are NOT not Corey Seager, Julio Urias or Jose Deleon

Chapman will close for the Dodgers with Kenley Jansen setting up. That’s one crazy good way to close out games.

 

Jonathan Papelbon learned a strange lesson from the Bryce Harper choking incident

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In this story from MLB.com about Jonathan Papelbon‘s grievance against the Washington Nationals stemming from his four-game suspension at the end of the season, he talks a bit about the incident which led to the suspension in the first place: his choking Bryce Harper right in the gosh darn dugout in front of God, Matt Williams and everyone.

So Johnny, what have you learned?

“My mistake was doing that in the dugout in front of a camera,” Papelbon said. “I’ve got two young kids. They know that’s not right, but it happens. I fully apologize for doing that but most of it’s handled in the tunnel. [Harper is] a competitor, too.”

So remember Little Leaguers: when you determine that you need to choke one of your teammates, do it like the big leaguers do: out of sight. Maybe in the tunnel. Just make sure there are no cameras around.

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