Kris Bryant is more concerned with helping the Cubs beat another path to the playoffs than becoming a trailblazer for the players’ union.
But it’s not lost on him how significant his role is in the union’s efforts to change service-time manipulation practices by teams as players and owners open negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement this year.
“I’m just in it for supporting the players and the guys after me. I’m just going to bat for them,” Bryant said Friday, speaking for the first time publicly about his grievance against the Cubs – and downplaying any pride he might take in a potentially historical role. “I don’t think I’m that type of person.”
It was revealed last month that the players’ union filed grievances on behalf of Bryant and Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco early last season over the common practice of service-time manipulation to delay arbitration eligibility or free agency.
In Bryant’s case, he was kept in the minors in 2015 the exact number of days required by the CBA to assure an additional year of club control – then helped the Cubs to the playoffs with a Rookie of the Year performance.
That success is what sources on the union side say makes their case most compelling in the unprecedented grievances.
The Cubs and major league baseball stand behind the language of the contract. But it’s in labor negotiations that Bryant’s case seems to have the best chance to make a difference.
“It really isn’t just me,” Bryant said. “Anthony [Rizzo] and Dexter [Fowler] and a lot of people before me have been through it. It just happens to be this year, and I had a good year and a lot of attention has been brought to it.
“There’s flaws in every system,” he said. “I think it is one that could possibly be changed. And maybe it will. Who knows?”