NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Kris Bryant’s storybook season came with an asterisk, the Cubs manipulating the service-time system, stashing him at Triple-A Iowa in early April and delaying his free agency by a year.
It apparently bothered Bryant and super-agent Scott Boras enough that the National League Rookie of the Year filed a grievance against the Cubs, Yahoo! Sports reported Monday as the winter meetings began in Nashville, Tennessee.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said the club has been aware of the Major League Baseball Players Association action since May.
“Nothing’s really changed since then,” Hoyer said while meeting with the Chicago media inside an Opryland suite. “The fact that the news came out today doesn’t really change anything about where we are. Obviously, we feel like we were in the right, but I’m not going to comment on the case or open this back up.”
The Yahoo! report also identified Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco as involved in the grievance process. Franco (170) and Bryant (171) finished just short of the 172 days needed for a full year of service, closing their free-agent windows until after the 2021 season.
Hoyer didn’t reveal anything about potential hearings or next steps in the process with the union, an All-Star third baseman and the game’s most powerful agent.
“It was filed in May – and to the best of my knowledge – it sits in the same place it has been,” Hoyer said. “It’s something we’ve known about for a long time. And it certainly doesn’t change our impression of the player or his representation at all.
“We’ve got a great relationship with Kris. We’ve got a great relationship with Scott.”
Setting service-time clocks for elite young players is essentially viewed as standard operating procedure within front offices and Bryant became a billboard for the issue in spring training.
Bryant – the second overall pick in the 2013 draft – began this year as Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect after hitting .325 with 43 homers and 110 RBI in 2014.
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Bryant lived up to the hype after making his big-league debut on April 17, admitting he played with a chip on his shoulder while finishing with 26 homers and 99 RBI for a team that won 97 games and two postseason rounds.
“I think Kris proved his point that he didn’t need any further minor-league (experience),” Boras said during last month’s GM meetings in South Florida. “Unless you can argue the seven games of Triple-A baseball dramatically allowed him to improve, I think he proved his point that he’s an All-Star player and a huge part of a franchise.
“Our point was that in the ethic of the game, I think it’s good for Kris – and for the fans and everyone (else) – that they understand that the rules of the game often allow teams to do things that are unrelated to the best interests of the team or the true talent evaluation of the player.
“It’s perfectly appropriate under the rules for clubs to say that they can do that. I just think you (should) have (better rules), a better ethic to it. Because in the end, we want to make sure our fans know the best players are always playing in the big leagues all the time.”
This issue looms larger with the current labor deal set to expire after the 2016 season, but Hoyer said there’s no bad blood between the Cubs and Bryant.
“He’s a consummate professional,” Hoyer said. “This guy is a baseball rat (and) you felt like he was a veteran by the time we got to September or October. He bounced back from a little slump in the middle of the season to have a great season (and) showed us a lot of maturity with that.
“Our relationship with him never wavered for a minute throughout this process. So if that was the case, that would be something we’d be concerned about. But it hasn’t. We love having him – and we’re going to have him for a long time.”