We've talked about this many times here.
"This" is the fact that Kris Bryant will have to spend a few weeks (two or three, most likely) in the minor leagues this year in order for the Cubs to have an extra year of team control. This is important, it's thought, because Scott Boras is Bryant's agent and very few Boras clients have ever signed under-market long-term contracts before free agency. If Bryant is as good as we all hope, of course we'd want Theo & Co. to get him signed long-term.
"This" is also something that's going to be "watched" by the MLB Players Association, writes Patrick Mooney at CSNChicago.com:
Tony Clark, the Major League Baseball Players Association’s executive director, declined to directly answer questions about the service-time math that will almost certainly force Bryant to start this season at Triple-A Iowa. But this clearly isn’t just a media creation or simply Cubs fans daydreaming about when they will be able to watch Bryant hit bombs at Wrigley Field. "We always pay attention," Clark said Friday. "We always pay attention during the course of the year as guys come up, go down, different considerations that may be a part of those decisions."
The Cubs, of course, could likely find good baseball-related reasons to ship Bryant to Des Moines for a few weeks. Maybe he doesn't have a good spring. Maybe they want him to work more on his outfielding. Any one of a number of reasons. Of course, we are in this situation because of the MLB/MLBPA collective-bargaining agreement, and that's something Clark also addressed:
Clark was asked if this could become an agenda item during the next rounds of collective bargaining. The current labor deal runs through the 2016 season. "We have always (believed) – and will continue to believe – that it’s in everyone’s best interests to have the best players playing at any particular time," Clark said. "Any rules that are in place that some may be using against the spirit of how they may have been designed, we don’t believe (that’s) in anyone’s best interest – the fans, or anyone that loves our games, the players, or even the clubs for that matter. "We will continue – as we always have – to monitor those types of scenarios and situations in the hopes that everybody does what’s best for the game."
You can bet that this is one of many things the players might want renegotiated in the next round of talks. We've got two more years until the current agreement runs out. Here's what could be the final word (for now, at least) from Cubs GM Jed Hoyer:
"We’re focused on him completing his development more than anything else," Hoyer said. "We talk about it with all these guys (that) you’re coming to camp to compete to make the club. But our focus with him is (on) completing his player plan, getting to a place where he has the skill set and the tool set to be a big-leaguer for a long time."
Bryant looked overmatched against major-league pitching last spring; he went 2-for-18 with 11 strikeouts, although the two hits were home runs, giving him a weird .111/.200/.444 slash line. Then he went and demolished Double-A pitching, and when he was done with that he destroyed Triple-A pitching, winding up as the Minor League Player of the Year. He'll obviously get a lot more playing time this spring. Spring stats don't always tell the whole story, but if Bryant has a strong spring there will be some pressure to put him on the Opening Day roster.
I still think he won't and the Cubs will find some baseball reason to send him to Iowa. This will be interesting to watch.