In 2015, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant spent the first two weeks of the season in the minors so that the team could manipulate his service time and get an extra year of control. The same tactic is being used on the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez now, and Bryant wants to see it changed.
Bryant called the current service time rule exploitation “awful” and said it wasn’t fair to players who work out all offseason and have impressive springs, only to be sent down for the extra year of control.
“I had a killer spring training,” Bryant said of 2015, via Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic. “And I purposely had a great spring training because I went into the offseason, I started earlier, I started the machine earlier. I was working pitches down and away, sliders down and away, velocity off the machine, just so I’m ready when the first game comes. And I was. It was frustrating. But I was down those two weeks and I knew what day I would come up. I don’t know. It’s funny how obvious it can be.
“It was so obvious. I think they’re going to do it to (Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.). ‘Oh, he’s gotta work on his defense.’ Stuff like that. But now I can look back on it and just laugh about it because I was told to work on my defense too and I think I got three groundballs in those games that I played. So it’s like, ‘Oh, now he’s ready.'”
Bryant added that he was “infuriated” by how teams and the league itself hype up prospects on Twitter, only for them to be sent to the minors until the requisite date arrives.
“Stop promoting the guy if you know exactly what’s going to happen,” Bryant said. “It’s a total money grab on everybody’s side. You’re putting the kid in a tough situation too. He’s seeing all this stuff. He’s kind of getting excited about it because, ‘Oh, MLB’s posting stuff about me!’ But at the end of spring training, he’s probably not going to be in the major leagues until that certain date. I totally feel for them. I can see how it’s going to hurt them.”
Players have definitely noticed, and there was talk of one of them filing a grievance against his team over their refusal to call him up. Ultimately, though, this is one of many issues that can only be addressed in the next CBA negotiation.