Rozner: There's no villain in the Kris Bryant saga

  • Neither the Cubs nor agent Scott Boras are villians in the Kris Bryant service saga, Daily Herald columnist Barry Rozner says.

    Neither the Cubs nor agent Scott Boras are villians in the Kris Bryant service saga, Daily Herald columnist Barry Rozner says. associate dpress

  • Associated Press/fileNeither the Cubs nor agent Scott Boras are villians in the Kris Bryant service saga, says Barry Rozner.

    Associated Press/fileNeither the Cubs nor agent Scott Boras are villians in the Kris Bryant service saga, says Barry Rozner.

 
 
Updated 3/18/2015 3:12 PM

The Kris Bryant saga has taken a turn for the surreal.

With stories and columns and radio discussions adding up by the hundreds, the Bryant legend is growing by the day and on the verge of out of control.

 

I began writing about this and discussing it on "Hit&Run" about a year ago, explaining that earliest the Cubs would call up Bryant would be two weeks into the 2015 season.

About three weeks ago, I wrote a column including comments from both agent Scott Boras and Cubs president Theo Epstein, giving both an opportunity to explain their positions.

In the days following, both joined me on the radio and had yet another chance to discuss Bryant and offer their thoughts.

Nothing has changed since then. No new ground broken.

There will no Evan Longoria deal -- an early, team-friendly contract -- and it's not because Boras is the Antichrist. He's the best because he doesn't care what teams or fans or writers think. He works for the player and if Bryant tests free agency seven years from now, he might just set a record for dollars.

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So Epstein will do what's right for the Cubs, and Boras will abide by the CBA and apply his justice down the road.

What has changed is the reaction from a portion of Cubs fans who now believe the Basic Agreement should be changed just for Bryant because it allows teams like the Cubs to "manipulate the system."

You've got to flippin' kidding me.

First of all, the Collective Bargaining Agreement is, well, collectively bargained, which means it takes an opening of the agreement and a negotiation to change it, and the current agreement runs through November 2016.

But the funniest part is those who want to see Bryant in Chicago opening night would like to see the deal amended to take away the very tiny portion of the CBA that allows teams some control over the players.

For the last 40 years, the MLB players association has done what no other players association has been able to do, which is beat the living daylights out of the owners nearly every time they have negotiated anything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

They have wiped the floor with the owners and created a system without a salary cap that allows for free agency, arbitration rights and the accumulation of wealth among players like no league has ever imagined.

They have won over and over and over again and they have won huge. If it were a baseball schedule, think of the MLBPA as something in the neighborhood of 160-2.

A thorough and complete beating.

Truth be told, I've always been a players' guy. I'm all for billionaire owners having to pay players what the market will bear in a capitalist system, where freedom of movement and selling to the highest bidder should be encouraged.

It is the only pro sports league without a cap. It is the only league where the union has power. It is the only league where the players walk into a negotiation on equal footing.

Good for them.

Owners have very little control, only until a player becomes arbitration eligible, at which point the player begins to pound the owner over the head with a financial hammer that doesn't end until he hangs up his glove, assuming he continues to perform.

That tiny window of financial control amounts to 60 days. If the Cubs keep Bryant in the minors for 60 days this season, they'll avoid super-two status and prevent Bryant from gaining an extra year of arbitration.

See, back in 1990, the players regained arbitration rights for 17 percent of players with the most service time just short of three years. Those fortunate players would be treated as having three full years, and be eligible for arbitration after that two-plus season and again after three-plus, four-plus and five-plus.

That percentage was negotiated up to 22 percent of the two-plus pool in the last CBA signed in 2011, another nice steal by the MLBPA.

What that means is that if the Cubs bring up Bryant before June 1, he'll be eligible for arbitration four times during his nearly seven years with the Cubs, rather than only three.

If Bryant is as good as we believe, that could cost the Cubs somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million, maybe even as much as $50 million, over those four years.

That's money the Cubs won't be able to spend on a couple of free agents, and who would the fans blame if the Cubs do that? They'll blame Epstein and say Tom Ricketts is cheap for not going $50 million over budget.

And if the Cubs bring up Bryant to start the season, rather than wait two weeks, he'll be eligible for free agency after six years here, rather than nearly seven full years.

If Bryant leaves for free agency after six years instead of seven, who will the fans blame? Yes, they'll blame Epstein.

In Atlanta right now they're wondering how it might be different if Jason Heyward had been kept in the minors the first two weeks of his first year. He wouldn't be a free agent until after 2016, rather than after this season, and he might still be in Atlanta instead of having been traded to St. Louis.

These two weeks of control -- or two months if I owned the team -- are all the control teams have over a player.

That's it. That's the end. After that -- and assuming Bryant is the monster he appears to be -- Bryant will be driving the bus and he'll drive it right over Ricketts' bank account. Over and over and over again.

And some people want to change the system and think it's a terrible rule? You've got to be out of your mind.

I'm a players' guy and I get it. I understand why teams need to use this to their advantage while they have the chance, because once a player hits arbitration, he's no longer a passenger on the bus.

He's in the driver's seat … and all an owner can do is close his eyes and wait to get run over.

Is that really difficult to comprehend?

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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