Associated Press

Kris Bryant’s MVP Award is a reminder of the Cubs’ savvy but troubling service time manipulation

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Kris Bryant just won the MVP Award a year after winning the Rookie of the Year Award. You didn’t need to know that in order to know that he’s a superior talent and one of the biggest stars in baseball, but those honors are certainly the cherries on top of the sundae. In Bryant, the Cubs have one of the best players in the game.

And, as you may recall, they’ll have control over him for a full season longer than they would’ve had if they actually treated him like the talent he clearly was at the outset of the 2015 season. That was when, despite being the 2014 Minor League Player of the Year and hitting moonshot homer after moonshot homer in spring training, the Cubs assigned him to Triple-A Iowa and gave the third base job to the clearly inferior Mike Olt.

At the time Cubs executives paid lip service to the flaws in Bryant’s game — Maybe he needed some defensive seasoning? Maybe his contact rate was worrisome? — but it that was clearly baloney. The Cubs were just keeping him in the minors for a couple of extra weeks in order to buy an extra year of control over Bryant before he’d become eligible for free agency. If you doubt that, you have to believe that he mastered those allegedly lacking skills in the most convenient time possible for the Cubs: Bryant finished his rookie season with 171 days of service time while a full season of service time is 172 days. How fortuitous!

Because of those 12 extra days in Iowa — really, just because of that 12th day — Bryant will now not be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season, representing almost seven full seasons of team control instead of the six that normally gives a player his professional freedom. This is obviously not great for Bryant. And he knows it. The MLBPA filed a grievance against the Chicago on his behalf alleging bad faith service time manipulation which is still pending. But it’s fantastic for the Cubs.

Bryant made $625,000 this year and his contract can be renewed at whatever salary the Cubs want for 2017. Unless the rules change in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement he’ll be arbitration-eligible four times, before the 2018-2021 seasons. Assuming Bryant continues to be a superstar, that last arbitration year, 2021, may prove to be the most lucrative arbitration year in history, but it will still fall short of what Bryant could’ve earned on the open market as a free agent. Of course the Cubs and Bryant could very well reach a deal for a long-term contract extension well before then, but even if they do, the Cubs will have a year’s worth of leverage on Bryant in the negotiations that they would otherwise not have had. That year of team control matters no matter what happens.

No one should cry for Kris Bryant. Given his talent, he’s going to be astonishingly wealthy one way or another. But, because the Cubs were allowed, under the system, to trade 12 days in April 2015 for a full year of Kris Bryant’s prime, he’ll have to wait a bit longer and risk a bit more while he waits for that payday. And the Cubs will likely save some money and bank some time before having to pony up the big bucks to lock up their young superstar.

Vanderbilt defeats Michigan 8-2 to win College World Series

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Vanderbilt defeated Michigan 8-2 in a decisive Game 3 on Wednesday night to win the College World Series. It’s Vanderbilt’s first championship since 2014 when the school defeated Virginia 3-2. Surprisingly, the 10 combined runs made this the highest-scoring College World Series-clinching game since 2009 when LSU beat Texas 11-4.

Michigan got on the board early, beginning the top of the first with three consecutive singles to take a 1-0 lead. Vanderbilt tied it at 1-1 with a solo homer from Pat DeMarco.

Vanderbilt took control of the game in the third and fourth innings, scoring three and two times, respectively. In the third, DeMarco drew a bases loaded walk and Stephen Scott followed up with a two-run single to make it 4-1. In the fourth, Vandy got a run on an RBI single from J.J. Bleday and a sacrifice fly from Ethan Paul. Harrison Ray added an RBI single in the seventh to pad the lead to 7-1. After Michigan scratched out another run in the top of the eighth, Vanderbilt got it right back in the bottom half thanks to an RBI single by Philip Clarke.

On the pitching side of things, Mason Hickman delivered six strong innings for Vandy. He yielded the lone run on four hits and three walks while striking out 10. He gave way to Jake Eder in the seventh, who worked a 1-2-3 frame. Eder remained in the game for the eighth, relenting a run on a two-out double, but it was too little, too late for Michigan. Going out in the ninth inning for a third inning, Eder worked around a two-out walk to close out the ballgame in an 8-2 victory for Vanderbilt.