March 30, 2015

Kris Bryant... Should he Stay or Should He Go?


The Chicago Cubs are faced with a decision as to what to do with their prospect Kris Bryant. He is not only undoubtedly one of the best 25 players in the organization, but may very well be one of the best players on the Cubs, period.  Should he Stay or Should he Go? (i.e., have him start the season in the MLB, or send him to the minors)  Should be an easy enough decision. A team's man goal is to win(*), and the Cubs are a better player with him on the team than not.

But there is a wrinkle. You see, MLB (in its Collective Bargaining Agreement) has decided that when a player spends 172 days on an MLB roster, that is deemed to be a whole season. And a team has control of a player for 6 seasons, after which he can become a free agent.  So, if Bryant starts the year in the minors and is called up in a couple of weeks, he will only be on the MLB roster for....171 days. Convenient. From the CBA's perspective this is no different than a prospect getting a cup of coffee in late September. You don't really want to discourage that by counting it as a whole year, so they have arbitrarily (or through heated negotiations, I'm not really sure) used 172 days as the cutoff between playing a whole season, and just getting a callup that doesn't really count.

By delaying Bryant's start by two weeks, the Cubs will still have him under team control in seven years.  As opposed to him becoming a free agent after six, and then the Cubs having to either spend multi-million dollars for him, or being outbid by someone else.  With these rules in place, what makes the most sense if you are a Cubs fan? Do you want this superstar to be guaranteed to play for you for six seasons startimg today, or seven seasons minus the next two weeks? Now the decision is much easier. I don't think anybody can argue that the next two weeks are more valuable than a whole season in seven years (he's only 23 years old and will still be in his prime).  Now, there is a risk that the Cubs miss the playoffs by a single game this year, and they could have won another game with him in the lineup to start the season. But unfortunately, due to the rules in place, it is the right reason.

Not just for the Cubs owner's monetary concerns but also for their long-term chances of winning. What is wrong here is the rule. The Cubs are playing by the rules that have been agreed upon. It sucks if you're a Cubs fan, or even just a general baseball fan excited to see this kid play. But don't be hating on Cubs managament... hate the rule that was set in place.  

(*) it may also be to maximize profits which is not necessarily correlated to wins, but the above point applies as well.  You will maximize profites by paying him less in his 7th year in the league if you keep him down for 12 days.

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