Jon Heyman writes today about Kris Bryant and the decision he faces regarding filing a grievance against the Cubs over what most people reasonably assume was their manipulation of his service time. Legal manipulation but manipulation all the same.
Heyman notes the dilemma Bryant is in: he hears that Bryant is displeased with his treatment and would like to establish some sort of precedent that would prevent later players being subjected to the same service time games, but he is also just breaking in with his new team and probably doesn’t want to rock the boat or inject negativity into a relationship that, on the baseball side, is looking nice and healthy. It’s a tough spot for the kid, of course, and as Heyman notes, it’s that dynamic that has kept this from every being litigated in the past.
But that aside, I’m still skeptical about a grievance. Yes, Bryant and his lawyer might have some hay to make about whether the Cubs acted in good faith in his case, but I’m not sure how that, to use Heyman’s words describing Bryant’s desire, could possibly establish “a rules clarification regarding the permissibility of delaying MLB-ready players over the service time issue.” Any rule that would change this state of affairs would have to be so wide-ranging that it would affect everyone, and the only way that really could happen, it seems, is via collective bargaining.
Arbitrations have, in the past, established some major “yes/no” decisions, such as the invalidity of the reserve clause. But The work of setting up rules is done via the collective bargaining agreement. If Bryant were to take this to an arbitration, it’s possible he could have a couple of weeks service time restored. But then the greater work of dealing with these matters would fall to the union rank and file. And to date they have shown very little willingness to fight for this sort of thing. And I doubt they’ll fight for it the next time around either.