It's up to the union to change Cubs/Kris Bryant situation


It's up to the union to change Cubs/Kris Bryant situation

DENVER – Could there be a Kris Bryant Rule in the next collective bargaining agreement? It’s become a hot-button issue for the Major League Baseball Players Association, which on some level only has itself to blame.

At least that’s how St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Carlos Villanueva sees it as an ex-Cub who’s on the union’s executive board, part of the team that helped negotiate the labor deal that will expire after the 2016 season.

The Cubs crossed off another day on their Triple-A Iowa service-time calendar as Bryant went 3-for-4 with three RBI and his first home run this season during Saturday’s 13-0 win over Memphis. By keeping Bryant in the minors for at least 12 days – only five more to go – the Cubs can delay his free agency for another year, until after the 2021 season.

“I’m a union guy,” Villanueva said. “We signed that contract. That language in the contract – the team has the liberty to do what they want when it comes to that. We don’t have to like it. And if we don’t like it, next time we sit at the bargaining table, we have to do something about it.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Bryant technically isn’t even a member of the union yet. But when the Cubs sent Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect down to minor-league camp on March 30, the MLBPA released a statement saying: “Today is a bad day for baseball.”

Super-agent Scott Boras also helped blow this up into a huge national story. As Bryant said, he’d rather have a bulldog working for him instead of a poodle.

“You hear the speech,” Villanueva said. “You hear we want to take north the best 25 players. I haven’t been around him that much, (but) I saw what he can do last year, and I have to believe that he is one of the best 25.

“If I’m an owner of a team, if I’m a GM, and the rules permit me to have a guy for an extra year at less money, it’s a business decision. And I would probably do the same thing. At the end of the year, can you say, ‘Well, we didn’t make the playoffs by one or two games, could he (have made) a difference in it?’ Maybe. We don’t have a crystal ball to know.

“They know they’re going to have him for a long time and I’m pretty sure he’s going to be real good.

“Of course, as a fan, I want to see him. I’m probably not as upset as everybody else. But from a business point of view, we drew it up. We both agreed to it. We signed it. And they’re within their rights to do what they’re doing.”

Villanueva is so popular in the Cubs clubhouse that players still wear T-shirts with his face on the front and his quotes on the back. He is also a strong bilingual voice inside the union, someone who always tries to see the big picture.

Stay tuned to see if the service-time calculus stays the same under the next collective bargaining agreement – or if there’s a variable that changes the entire Bryant equation.

“I can’t give you an angry quote,” Villanueva said. “I hate that it is what it is, but there’s nothing that prohibits the team right now, aside from making fans maybe angry or other players upset. They really shouldn’t care. Because if he does come up, and he starts raking, and they win, nobody’s going to remember it.

“Boras is going to remember it. He’s not going to get paid as much, maybe. But it’s not the first time that something like this has happened, and it’s not going to be the last. If we don’t like it…then we have to do something about it when we sit at the table. And I’m pretty sure we will.”

Cubs aren’t trading Yu Darvish this winter, despite reported inquiries

Cubs aren’t trading Yu Darvish this winter, despite reported inquiries

Whether the Cubs trade a member of their position player core this winter — i.e. Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras — is to be determined. Both have been fixtures in rumors this offseason, and the Cubs may make a deal to replenish their barren farm system and retool their roster with the organization’s long-term stability in mind.

Yu Darvish, on the other hand, is a different story.

No, the Cubs won’t be trading Darvish this winter, despite the inquiries they received at the Winter Meetings this week, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

A year ago, this would be an entirely different conversation. Darvish was coming off a disappointing debut season on the North Side in which he made eight starts and posted a 4.95 ERA in 40 innings. He didn’t throw a single big-league pitch after May 20 due to a lingering arm issue that led to surgery last November.

2019 was only Year 2 of the lucrative six-year contract Darvish signed in February 2018. But between the injury and his struggles before it that season, the narrative entering 2019 was shifting towards Darvish being a potential bust.

The narrative around Darvish is obviously much different now, thanks to the stellar second half performance he put together last season. In 13 starts, the 33-year-old delivered a 2.76 ERA, striking out 118 batters compared to a mere seven walks in 81 2/3 innings.

Not only was Darvish walking the walk, but he was talking the talk. He was determined to turn things around after posting a 5.01 ERA in the first half, asking then manager Joe Maddon to start the Cubs’ first game after the All-Star break. The result? Six innings of two-hit, no-run ball with eight strikeouts and one walk. Darvish's comeback was officially on.

Bust? Darvish is far from it now. He opted in to the remaining four years of his contract earlier this offseason, calling the Cubs "perfect" for him.

If the Cubs were entering a rebuild, fielding Darvish trade offers would make plenty of sense. He's owed $81 million through 2023, a bargain compared to the deals Gerrit Cole (nine years, $324 million — Yankees) and Stephen Strasburg (seven years, $245 million — Nationals) earned this offseason. Darvish's contract is desirable, and trading him would help alleviate the Cubs' notoriously tight payroll situation, freeing up money for them to put towards other needs.

But the Cubs aren’t rebuilding, and trading Darvish would create a tremendous hole in a rotation with plenty of uncertainty after next season. José Quintana is set to hit free agency after 2020 and Jon Lester could join him, if his 2021 option doesn’t vest (he must pitch 200 innings next season for that to occur). Heck, even Tyler Chatwood's deal is up after 2020.

In one season, Darvish has elevated himself to the No. 1 pitcher in the Cubs rotation. The Cubs won't be better next season if they trade Bryant or Contreras, but they'd still be competitive and acquire assets for the future.

One player doesn't make a team in baseball, but the Cubs need Darvish in their rotation, not someone else's. Unless they're absolutely blown away by a trade offer, Darvish isn't going anywhere.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: MLB 2019 Winter Meetings come to an end

NBC Sports Chicago

Sports Talk Live Podcast: MLB 2019 Winter Meetings come to an end

SportsTalk Live is on location in San Diego for the final day of the MLB Winter Meetings.

0:00- Chuck Garfien, Tony Andracki and Vinnie Duber join Kap to recap the Winter Meetings. Tony was right-- the Cubs didn't make a move. Plus, should the White Sox have done more in San Diego?

12:00- Legendary baseball writer Peter Gammons joins Kap and Chuck. The talk about the price for pitching and what the Cubs might do with Kris Bryant. Plus, Gammons talks about a text he received saying the White Sox were talking with the Red Sox about Andrew Benintendi and David Price. Would that make sense for the Southsiders?

20:00- White Sox World Series winning closer Bobby Jenks joins Kap to discuss his emotional article in The Players Tribune. They discuss his injuries with the Red Sox, the back surgery that almost cost him his life and then his downward spiral into addiction.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast