PITTSBURGH – Player agent Scott Boras, at PNC Park Tuesday to watch the suddenly half-Boras Cubs infield, believes he has an answer to avoid the service-time disputes that affected his Cub rookie clients Kris Bryant and Addison Russell:
Objective, expert panels to evaluate whether a player has shown he’s ready for a big-league debut out of spring training if the club has decided instead to start him in the minors (which results in an additional year of club control if he gets called up roughly two weeks into the season).
“For example, I would say the union or somebody may come and make a claim that this player is major-league ready and that to place him in the minor leagues would not be appropriate from a skills standpoint,” Boras said, “and then all of a sudden it’s subject to review by a panel of former managers or baseball experts.”
By keeping Bryant and Russell in the minors more than 11 days of the big-league season, the Cubs have assured an additional year of club control for both (through 2021) before free agency eligibility. That’s because the collective bargaining agreement defines a full major league season as 172 days between the first game and last game of the regular-season (a 183-day span this season).
Bryant made his big-league debut Friday (13th of the season); Russell Tuesday. Another Boras client, White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon, also was affected when he was kept in the minors until Monday.
Boras’ idea is at least an open can of worms and potentially a non-starter.
“It has to be objective, among a board, a panel,” he said. “Because you’re talking about a talent evaluation.”
Possible issues include the direct intrusion into clubs’ personnel decisions that may involve multiple roster issues (another player’s options, 40-man considerations, etc.), as well as the nearly impossible task of assuring the objectivity Boras requires.
“It’s objective in the sense that they’re neutral,” he said. “My point is the only way subjective turns objective is that you’ve got to go to the best-known experts who are going to make an evaluation of what they do.”
Boras said the process would only apply to players without big-league experience and only apply to decisions out of big-league spring trainings – when theoretically anyone in camp is being given an opportunity to make the club (as Cubs president Theo Epstein actually said in regard to Bryant when Cubs camp opened in February).
Boras also dismissed the notion that his evaluation process looks like little more than a pre-emptive grievance process.
“Because in a grievance procedure there’s an arbitrator,” he said. “The arbitrator’s not a talent expert.”
Boras, by the way, said he does not know whether the union intends to file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf over the 12 days he spent in the minors (based on “good faith and fair dealing” with the player within the context of the CBA).
Union and MLB officials are expected in the coming months to begin negotiations on potential changes to the CBA that expires at the end of 2016.