With the 2016 MLB Draft, all eyes were on Kris Bryant. The Cubs selected him with the first pick to play center field for Chicago and a future Hall of Fame career was in store for one of our favorite players. He has since hit an incredible .292/.385/.590 , stealing 70 bases and making his second consecutive All-Star game appearance in 2017 despite still being a rookie. With these stats, it is no surprise that he is now considered one of baseball’s best prospects ever
The “mlb service time manipulation 2022” is the end of MLB service time manipulation. The next Kris Bryant was paved by the end of this year’s game.
Five of baseball’s top 25 prospects hit the field with their respective MLB clubs on Opening Day. But there was Kris Bryant, who broke camp as a big leaguer years before Julio Rodriguez, Spencer Torkelson, Bobby Witt Jr., Hunter Greene, and the rest of the excellent rookie class of 2022.
Bryant has been the poster player for the service time manipulation that has kept top prospects in the minors rather than allowing them to start the season with their major league teams. He just played against his former team on the seven-year anniversary of his MLB debut for the Chicago Cubs on April 17th.
The union used Bryant’s case as an example of a system that didn’t function during the recent CBA discussions. The players’ association’s primary priority this year was to create adjustments that will help future top young talents.
Bryant was picked No. 2 overall by the Cubs in 2013 out of the University of San Diego, and he earned minor league player of the year the following season. He pounded the Cactus League with a.425 batting average in spring training 2015, leading the majors with nine home runs. Instead of going to Chicago, he was sent to Triple-A Iowa as a 23-year-old prospect in order to “get in a solid defensive rhythm,” according to then-Cubs president Theo Epstein.
Bryant was called up a little more than two weeks later, giving him 171 days of service at the end of the year. Because he fell one day short of the full season criteria, his free agency was postponed for a full season.
That’s a joke if @KrisBryant 23 doesn’t make the big league club out of camp! I see you going about your business, brotha! #TheTruth #MadeInVegas
— March 14, 2015, Bryce Harper (@bryceharper3)
He went on to win Rookie of the Year in the National League, earning a prorated minimum of $570,500. The Cubs won the World Series the next season, and he was named National League MVP. He was paid $652,000.
Bryant and his lawyers filed a grievance with the league after his rookie season, claiming that his almost complete (and extremely productive) season in 2015 should count toward his six years of club control. Bryant became a free agent this past summer after losing that lawsuit by an arbitrator’s order in January 2020. He finally signed a seven-year, $182 million contract with the Rockies.
During the lockout, Bryant’s victory in his lawsuit was a rallying point for many players.
Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, stated, “When we got to a hearing, I told Kris there was no way an arbitrator was going to impose new rules.” “This step would provide the groundwork for countering the commissioner’s office’s contention that a grievance would correct any infraction if there was actual service time manipulation.”
“The ‘Bryant Rule’ was developed on the idea that no arbitrator would legislate new rules, as proved by the plain, factual premise that clearly demonstrated service time manipulation. It was openly used, claiming that there is no regulation prohibiting it, as indicated in the hearing evidence.”
As a result, during the CBA discussions this past winter, the union fought back strongly on instances of service time manipulation. The league and the union have agreed to make the following modifications in the future:
If a player finishes first or second in Rookie of the Year voting, he will be given a complete year of service regardless of when he is promoted from the minors.
A new system has been implemented that rewards clubs with additional draft selections if their best prospects are promoted on Opening Day. A player who serves a full year and finishes in the top three in Rookie of the Year voting or the top five in MVP/Cy Young voting earns his club an additional first-round draft selection.
A new pre-arbitration bonus pool enables the top players in a class to dramatically increase their salary by doing well on the field while still in their contract’s early arbitration years. The top 100 players, determined by a WAR-based algorithm, as well as the end-of-year award winners, will each get $50 million every year.
While it was too late to aid Kris Bryant, it will tremendously benefit the future Kris Bryant.
This spring, Bryant told ESPN, “It’s wonderful to see some progress in that area.” “It’s encouraging that players will be more compensated for their efforts on the field. That’s fantastic if I helped pave the path.”
Perhaps no 2022 rookie’s route is more similar to Bryant’s than first baseman Spencer Torkelson of the Detroit Tigers. Torkelson, the Tigers’ No. 1 overall choice in the 2020 MLB draft after a college career spent rewriting the record books at Arizona State, dominated the minor levels last season, belting 30 home runs and driving in 91 runs in 121 games with his strong swing.
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Torkelson, like Bryant with the Cubs in 2015, is part of a wave of young talent that have the Tigers optimistic about years of competitiveness ahead. Torkelson, unlike Bryant, made his big league debut on Opening Day in Detroit earlier this month rather than waiting weeks in the minors to gain experience.
Torkelson, 22, was fully aware of Bryant’s predicament, as well as the union’s campaign this summer.
“The younger men appreciate the veterans putting in the time and effort not just for themselves, but also for the new generation,” Torkelson added. “They were once us, and they wanted us to have a fair opportunity, too.”
For years, team management have been stuck in the midst of this battle, evaluating the immediate on-field benefit of having their top players on the field for 162 games against the long-term payback of a system that favored postponing debuts.
“We shouldn’t be preventing these individuals from becoming stars as an industry,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “With the new CBA, it’s not surprising that we saw more of them [best prospects making clubs] this year. It may just be due to the fact that we’re dealing with an exceptional collection of athletes, or it could be due to the fact that those two planets collided.”
Julio Rodriguez, the Mariners’ top prospect who also started the season on the roster, made the club, according to Dipoto, not just because of his performance, but also because Seattle had already placed him on its 40-man roster following last season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. When comparing Rodriguez’s predicament to Bryant’s, the veteran executive emphasized this disparity.
“The most overused phrase we hear is service time, service time, service time,” said Dipoto. “The problem is with the alternatives. Julio is a member of the 40-man roster. You’re already squandering an option the day he’s demoted to the minors. There is no actual choice to be made after you are on the 40-man roster.”
Teams may only option a player to the minors for three seasons, and the new CBA also includes a provision restricting teams to only optioning a single player five times each season.
This approach to Rodriguez’s roster spot differs from the Mariners’ treatment of outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic, who was at the center of the service time manipulation debate last season. After Kelenic began the 2021 season in the minor leagues, then-club president Kevin Mather made public statements indicating that it was solely to prolong team control after Kelenic declined an extension offer. Kelenic was not added to the 40-man roster until he made his big league debut in May, despite the fact that he was not in risk of being drafted in the Rule 5 draft.
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While the reforms seem to be accomplishing their goal so far, it remains to be seen whether the new additions to the CBA will have any unforeseen implications. The greatest risk would be if organizations began keeping players back even longer in order to assure that they would not have enough time in the major leagues to win Rookie of the Year. A club may have a half-season of excellent performance and still maintain a player for the additional year on the back end, but they would miss out on draft selections.
“I’m curious to see how this develops,” Bryant remarked. “Hopefully, it doesn’t lead to harsher conduct, such as concealing a man for four months simply to deprive him, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Despite the fact that six of this year’s top prospects made their debut on Opening Day, one noticeable outlier stood out: Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz, who was placed No. 13 on Kiley McDaniel’s preseason Top 100. The 6-foot-7 shortstop made headlines throughout spring training with his tape-measure home runs, but he started the season at Triple-A, leaving one fan group eager to see their brightest rising star in the big.
However, the progress achieved by the union in terms of daily dollars for the top young players already in the majors cannot be denied.
Corbin Burnes, the NL Cy Young Award winner in 2021, is the ideal example, according to Bryant. Bryant said, “Burnes was worth five times what the Brewers paid him last season.”
Burnes was 11-5 with a 2.43 ERA in his fourth season with the Brewers, and he led all pitchers with a 7.5 FanGraphs WAR. However, since he is still in pre-arbitration, his pay was just $608,000. If the Brewers’ ace wins the award again in 2022 following the CBA changes, he’ll earn a bonus, something Bryant didn’t get during his back-to-back award-winning seasons in 2015 and 2016.
Even when Bryant filed his service time grievance, he understood it was a long shot, but change required a face, and his case pushed a problem for young players to the forefront.
“After going through all of that, I realized it wasn’t for me,” Bryant added. “There was a small chance of anything going my way. ‘I need to do this for the people who come after me,’ I thought to myself.”
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