The White Sox will never have to deal with this Kris Bryant service-time grievance business. And that's a good thing.
For a bit there, service time was all we were talking about, first with Eloy Jimenez, then with Luis Robert. Would the White Sox treat their star prospects like the Cubs treated Bryant in 2015, keeping them in the minor leagues for a few weeks at the start of their respective rookie seasons in order to ensure one more year of team control?
Certainly they could have, as the outcome of Bryant's grievance against the Cubs shows. The ruling was in the Cubs' favor, and Bryant will be a free agent after the 2021 season, instead of becoming a free agent after the upcoming 2020 campaign, as he argued he should be. However unfair to the player, the Cubs didn't break any rules. The White Sox wouldn't have, either.
But the White Sox did away with all this service-time stuff when they inked both Jimenez and Robert to big-money contract extensions that will keep them on the South Side through the 2026 and 2027 seasons, respectively.
Were those deals risky? Sure. Neither player had played in a major league game when they signed, and Robert obviously still hasn't. But if those guys live up to the hype that's accompanied them through their young pro careers, those contracts will look like a bargain.
That's one area where Rick Hahn has excelled during his rebuilding effort and an area where Theo Epstein didn't take what's now proving to be beneficial action. Of course, Bryant might not have ever signed such an extension, as players earn their right to hit the open market as free agents. Bryant's star rose immediately upon his arrival in the big leagues, giving him all the reason to believe his eventual free-agent payday would be sky high. But the Cubs, once believed to be primed for a dynastic run, are now seeing their championship window shrinking as they face franchise-altering decisions on which players to keep for the long term.
Hahn might face criticism one day down the road for not locking up Lucas Giolito or Yoan Moncada in similar fashions — deals that could certainly be attempted before those two head to free agency after the 2023 season and something already on the minds of White Sox fans — but he won't face simultaneous choices between Jimenez and Robert.
The White Sox have long had a track record of these kinds of team-friendly, long-term deals. Tim Anderson has been in the majors for four seasons and is still under team control for another five. Before him, it was team-friendly deals for Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana that allowed Hahn to acquire such massive hauls in the trio of trades that jump started the rebuild in the first place.
The contracts for Jimenez and Robert are not just the latest in that line, but they aim to keep the White Sox window propped open for as long as possible. Not only can Hahn ink Jimenez and Robert into the lineup for the better part of the next decade, but he can take advantage of these team-friendly deals to make the roster even better with outside additions, increasing the team's championship chances.
The window has to actually open first, of course. Jimenez has to leave his rookie-year growing pains behind him, and Robert needs to adjust to life in the majors. But the ceilings for these guys are so high, they're viewed as potentially the two most important pieces of the White Sox long-term puzzle.
Hahn has glued those pieces in, and he doesn't have to worry about the same kinds of things the Cubs have spent their offseason worrying about with Bryant.
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