Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant’s service time issue is still controversial today.
If a rookie is on a team’s Major League roster or disabled list for 172 days of the season he earns a full year of service time. That seems simple enough, but once again Epstein found the flaw with this system.
In 2015 Kris Bryant wasn’t called up until he could only earn 171 days of service time. The result is that the Cubs will get an additional year of team control. It will take Bryant one more year to become a free agent because in his rookie year he wasn’t called up to the majors one day earlier. This is still seen as controversial even today.
The Braves made the opposite decision with Heyward. In 2010 Heyward made his major league debut on opening day. However, this decision meant that he became a free agent after the 2015 season. If the Braves had just waited a few weeks before calling him up, he wouldn’t have been a free agent until after the 2016 season.
This phenomena also discourages teams from calling up their best prospects at the end of the season. Former Cub farmhand Eloy Jiménez was a victim of the service time issue at the end of last season.
It used to be that teams would call up their best prospects after rosters expand on September 1st to get them a taste of playing at the major league level. If teams thought that their prospect had a chance of winning the Rookie of Year Award they would make sure that he didn’t play so much that he lost his rookie status.
I would like to see a system put in the collective bargaining agreement that encouraged teams to not only have rookies on the Opening Day roster but also call them up in September if teams think that they are ready. Major League Baseball is going to have to come to an agreement with the players association on just how many years of team control that teams are entitled to.
Once they do that I think that as long as a player will still have rookie status for the rookie of the year award going into a season then the team shouldn’t have to worry about a player getting to free agency a year early because the team didn’t wait a few weeks before calling the player up.