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The Chicago Cubs just demoted their best player to the minor leagues. Why? Because it's good for business... maybe.
Kris Bryant is the next great can't-miss prospect. He was the second pick in the 2013 draft and last year he hit 43 home runs in the minor leagues. As if that wasn't enough, he hit 9 homers in just 40 at bats during spring training. But the Cubs still demoted him to the minor leagues and Major League Baseball's free agency rules are likely the biggest reason.
Those rules grant free agency to players based on service time. If Bryant spends just 12 days of this season in the minors, his free agency "clock" won't start and he won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season. That's a year later than if he started the season on the opening day roster. That seems like a pretty good idea, right? Trade just 12 days of Kris Bryant for 12 days of whomever else the Cubs can throw out there to play third base, and in return get an extra year of control over Bryant, which could save the Cubs millions of dollars down the line.
But there are 3 reasons this could backfire:
1) The fans are angry. The Cubs faithful were ecstatic with the Cubs moves this off season, that included adding an experienced manager, Joe Maddon, and an ace starting pitcher, Jon Lester, (for $155 million), to an exciting core of young players. Now those same fans are hurt and angry at a move they say means the Cubs are not committed to putting the best team on the field as soon as possible.
2) The players union isn't happy either. In a statement the MLB Players Association called it a bad day for baseball, and said, "this decision, and other similar decisions made by clubs will be addressed in litigation, bargaining or both." Ever since baseball nearly ruined itself with the 1994-95 strike, the two sides have been smart enough to avoid another labor confrontation. Anything that threatens to disrupt the labor peace would be bad for everyone.
3) It could cost the Cubs crucial victories. Mike Trout was the last great prospect surprisingly sent down to start a season. In 2012,the Angels didn't call him up until April 28. When they did, he won the Rookie of the Year, and should have been the MVP too. But they went 6-14 without him, 83-59 with him, and they missed the playoffs by just a few games.
But the Cubs haven't won a World Series in 106 years. So what's one more?