Kris Bryant on service time manipulation: ‘It’s funny how obvious it can be’

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Third baseman Kris Bryant quickly made his way through the Cubs’ minor league system after being drafted second overall in 2013, but it wasn’t quick enough. In the latter half of 2013, he ascended from rookie ball to High-A, then ran roughshod over both Double-A and Triple-A pitching in 2014 while being rated one of baseball’s best prospects. In 2014, he hit a combined .325/.438/.661 with 43 home runs and 110 RBI in the minors. Surely good enough to merit a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster in 2015, right?

Even though Bryant had a ridiculous spring, batting .425 with nine home runs and 15 RBI in just 40 at-bats, the Cubs sent him to Triple-A to start the 2015 season. He was promoted on April 17, just in time for the Cubs to have secured an extra year of control, effectively manipulating his service time. The Cubs claimed he needed work on his defense. Bryant went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Bryant and Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco filed grievances against their respective teams during the offseason, but players almost never win these grievances because definitively proving malfeasance is difficult.

Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic caught up with Bryant to talk about baseball’s service time manipulation problem. Bryant said, “It’s awful. So awful. It’s going to happen this year and it happens every year. I could understand it if you go out and have a rough spring training where you don’t look ready. But there’s certain people who put the time and the effort into the offseason so that they do show up to spring training and they prove that they’re ready to go. I feel like you should be rewarded for that.” Bryant added that teams are “finding a loophole in the system.” He laughed about the whole thing, saying, “It’s funny how obvious it can be.”

Sharma points out that the Cubs were even grimier than they appeared. On April 14, 2015, Mike Olt — handling third base in Bryant’s stead — left a game with a thumb injury. Bryant was called up on the 17th, which was when it was also revealed that Olt suffered a broken hand. Doctors don’t need two days to look at X-rays. In the one game the Cubs played between Olt’s injury and Bryant’s promotion, Arismendy Alcantara handled third base, a position he never played regularly in the minors. Bryant was in New Orleans at the time, which is about a two-hour plane ride away from Chicago, as the Cubs were in the midst of a homestand. It wasn’t even logistically difficult to get Bryant to Chicago.

Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Fernando Tatis, Jr., and Eloy Jiménez are three of baseball’s elite prospects. They are, by all accounts, ready for the majors, but they are expected to begin the year in the minors until their teams officially gain that extra year of control over them, delaying their foray into free agency by one year. Bryant said, “I think they’re going to do it to [Guerrero, Jr.]. ‘Oh, he’s gotta work on his defense.’ Stuff like that. But now I can look back on it and just laugh about it because I was told to work on my defense too and I think I got three groundballs in those games that I played. So it’s like, ‘Oh, now he’s ready.’”

Bryant said, “When the new CBA came out, I wasn’t really paying attention to much of this. But now that the situation has changed and you see how free agency has gone, it’s impossible to not put your attention into that. It would be nice if we could hammer some of these things out before we get to 2021.” Service time manipulation won’t be addressed until MLB owners and the union agree on a new collective bargaining agreement following the 2021 season. Bryant is part of a growing contingent of players to have publicly expressed displeasure with the way teams are going about roster construction lately, potentially foreshadowing a contentious next two years.

New bill to build Athletics stadium on Las Vegas Strip caps Nevada’s cost at $380 million

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
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CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature would give the Oakland Athletics up to $380 million for a potential 30,000 seat, $1.5 billion retractable roof stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

The bulk of the public funding would come from $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state and $120 million in county bonds, which can vary based on interest rate returns. Clark County also would contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.

The A’s have been looking for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team had sought to build a stadium in Fremont, San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront, all ideas that never materialized.

The plan in the Nevada Legislature won’t directly raise taxes. It can move forward with a simply majority vote in the Senate and Assembly. Lawmakers have a little more than a week to consider the proposal before they adjourn June 5, though it could be voted on if a special session is called.

The Athletics have agreed to use land on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort sits. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has said he is disappointed the team didn’t negotiate with Oakland as a “true partner.”

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54. It would become the smallest TV market in Major League Baseball and the smallest market to be home to three major professional sports franchises.

The team and Las Vegas are hoping to draw from the nearly 40 million tourists who visit the city annually to help fill the stadium. The 30,000-seat capacity would make it the smallest MLB stadium.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when owners meet June 13-15 in New York.

The plan faces an uncertain path in the Nevada Legislature. Democratic leaders said financing bills, including for the A’s, may not go through if Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoes the five budget bills, which he has threatened to do as many of his priorities have stalled or faded in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Under the bill, the Clark County Board of Commissioners would create a homelessness prevention and assistance fund along the stadium’s area in coordination with MLB and the Nevada Resort Association. There, they would manage funds for services, including emergency rental and utility assistance, job training, rehabilitation and counseling services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The lease agreement with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority would be up for renewal after 30 years.

Nevada’s legislative leadership is reviewing the proposal, Democratic state Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said in a statement.

“No commitment will be made until we have both evaluated the official proposal and received input from interested parties, including impacted community members,” Yeager said.