Grow: The MLBPA has a problem — and it’s not Kris Bryant

From SABR member Nathaniel Grow on March 30, 2015:

The almost certain, impending demotion of Kris Bryant to the minor leagues for the season’s first couple weeks has brought renewed focus on Major League Baseball’s service time rules. As most readers are by now well aware, by sending Bryant to the minors for the first two weeks of the season, the Cubs will ensure that he fails to earn a full year’s worth of major league service time in 2015, preventing Bryant from becoming a free agent until 2021, rather than after the 2020 season. While it thus makes sense from a business standpoint for the Cubs to send Bryant to the minors for a fortnight to preserve an extra year of his services down the road, the thought that baseball’s top prospect – and MLB’s spring training home run leader – could begin the season in Triple-A has nevertheless led to calls for the Major League Baseball Players Association to take a stand on the issue.

Last week, for instance, Ken Rosenthal wrote a column arguing that the MLBPA should file a grievance if Bryant is demoted. Although he recognized that the union would almost certainly lose such a grievance – since arbitrators generally defer to teams on decisions regarding a player’s major-league readiness – Rosenthal nevertheless believed it would show the owners that the MLBPA won’t be pushed around on the issue. Meanwhile, others have taken a somewhat more patient approach, urging the MLBPA to address service time manipulation in the next round of collective bargaining talks following the 2016 season.

However, while service time manipulation certainly needs to be dealt with, the MLBPA has a much more significant and pressing – but often overlooked – issue to address in the next round of CBA negotiations: the players’ plummeting share of overall MLB league revenues.

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Originally published: March 30, 2015. Last Updated: March 30, 2015.