Chicago — Kris Bryant lost his service-time grievance against the Chicago Cubs, providing some clarity for the team and the All-Star third baseman with spring training on the horizon.
Two people with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed the decision Wednesday. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because arbitrator Mark Irvings had not announced his ruling.
The grievance had hovered over Chicago throughout its quiet offseason. The decision means the 28-year-old Bryant has two years left before he is eligible for free agency, instead of becoming a free agent after the 2020 season.
Now that Bryant’s status is settled, the Cubs might decide to trade the 2016 National League MVP for financial flexibility and an injection of talent for their sagging minor league system. They also could keep the talented slugger in hopes of winning the wide-open NL Central for the third time in five years.
Bryant is slated to make $18.6 million this season after he avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract on Jan. 10. The first full-squad workout for the Cubs is scheduled for Feb. 17.
Bryant starred at the University of San Diego before he was selected by Chicago with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft.
He rocketed through the Cubs’ farm system and made his major-league debut April 17, 2015. That timing left him able to accrue 171 days of major-league service that season, one day shy of a full year of service. In his grievance, the Las Vegas native contended he was held in the minors in a deliberate effort to delay free-agent eligibility, which requires six years of major league service, and the Cubs’ action violated baseball’s collective bargaining agreement.
Bryant hit .275 with 26 homers and 99 RBIs his first season, helping Chicago make the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and winning the NL rookie of the year award. He hit 39 homers and scored an NL-high 121 runs in 2016, leading the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908.
Bryant batted .282 with 31 homers, 77 RBIs and 108 runs last season, but Chicago finished third in the division and missed the postseason. He was hampered by right knee soreness for part of the summer, and then missed the end of the season with a sprained right ankle.
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