NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In essence, Kris Bryant became a franchise-level player from the moment the Cubs drafted him in 2013, a No. 2 overall pick with off-the-charts power, media savvy and so much marketing potential.
In the same way that Bryant views it as his responsibility to sign as many autographs as he can at the ballpark — and embraces the endorsements, billboards and commercials as a businessman — does he see this service-time grievance against the Cubs as bigger than himself?
From the outside, it looks like a statement on behalf of the Major League Baseball Players Association, trying to make a larger point heading into negotiations over a collective bargaining agreement that expires after the 2016 season.
But super-agent Scott Boras wouldn’t go that far — or even zing the Cubs that much — while doing his annual media session at the winter meetings.
“This is a union matter,” Boras said Wednesday inside the Opryland complex. “There’s an ambiguity. It needs to be resolved so that the sides know more about how to handle that situation.
“Kris Bryant is the performer. It’s that when his talent is so great, the rarity of the ambiguity had risen. That’s all.”
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This week began with a Yahoo! Sports report that identified Bryant and Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco as involved in the grievance process. Bryant (171) and Franco (170) finished just short of the 172 days needed for a full year of service, the bottom line being they can’t become free agents until after the 2021 season.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer responded by saying the team had known about the grievance since May: “Obviously, we feel like we were in the right.”
After the issue exploded into a national story during spring training, Bryant played seven games at Triple-A Iowa, debuted at Wrigley Field on April 17, made the National League All-Star team and became a unanimous Rookie of the Year pick.
“This is about rule interpretation, the intent,” Boras said. “That’s something the drafters of the CBA and an arbitrator will have to define. The union’s handling it.”