We all know that Kris Bryant was kept in the minor leagues to start this season largely due to service-time and team control issues. No matter what the Cubs said, calling it "baseball reasons," the real reasons were clearly underlying.
This is done because the terms of the MLB/MLBPA collective-bargaining agreement encourage such things. Is it the right thing to do? Maybe not, but the players agreed to it and so in my view have given up the right to complain about it until the next labor negotiation.
That's why this article by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is somewhat surprising. Heyman suggests that some in the MLBPA want to file a grievance over the Bryant case:
Cubs phenom Kris Bryant is off to a spectacular start and everything appears to be going splendidly on the North Side of Chicago, but the players union is still said to see a potential for filing a grievance over the timing of Bryant's callup on Bryant's behalf. There's never been a grievance like this, but the union could possibly contend the timing of the callup was designed only to hinder Bryant's service time and delay his free agency, and unrelated to any actual deficiency in Bryant's game. The union could technically file a case without Bryant's approval, though presumably it wouldn't do that. So union chief Tony Clark is said ready to reach out to Bryant soon to determine his mindset.
The article goes on to call Bryant "a very pleasant sort who's almost as affable as he is talented" and that there's been no evidence that Bryant is headed in the direction of a grievance. On the other hand:
People close to him also suggest Bryant is interested in a rules clarification regarding the permissibility of delaying MLB-ready players over the service time issue, which may have the potential to benefit future players, if a case can somehow be proven.
It would seem to me that given the terms of the CBA, nothing of the sort can be "proven," since the agreement doesn't say that teams can't do what the Cubs have done here, or, as Heyman also points out, Theo Epstein did with several of his top prospects with the Red Sox, in particular Dustin Pedroia and current Cub Jon Lester. So the Cubs could respond by saying this is the way their baseball boss has always operated.
In reality, this system hurts the player because it delays his free agency. It hurts the team because (presumably) the player could help the team win games. (Granted that this year, Bryant missed eight games and that isn't likely to make or break a Cubs playoff run, if there is one, later this summer.)
Heyman reaches this conclusion:
Nonetheless, it may not be an easy case to win even if an arbitrator can be convinced Bryant should have been on the team Opening Day. They'd likely have to show the Cubs acted in bad faith. The Cubs love Bryant for his play and personality, but a Cubs connected person called the notion of a grievance "laughable." And, without precedent, it may indeed be a bit of a long shot to win.
I tend to agree with that. Scott Boras, Bryant's agent, might be pushing for this grievance as a test case, and recently he came up with a new idea on how to judge whether a player is ready for callup (an idea which, I think you'll agree, is laughable).
In the end, I doubt a grievance is filed, since it has little chance of being upheld. But this system is likely going to be a subject of great discussion during the next labor negotiation, which will occur after the 2016 season (or, perhaps before, if the new commissioner wants to continue the labor peace his predecessor was rightly proud of).
Thought you all would like to discuss this, if nothing else.