Friday, March 18, 2016

Braves Demotions and Service Time in the MLB

For those of you looking for Mallex Smith to make the major league roster this year, you're going to have to wait a little while. He was optioned down to AAA Gwinnett today along with Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Lucas Sims, and Aaron Blair.

Now this shouldn't shock anybody who understands the service rules in MLB. Let me explain a bit. A player in the major leagues gets 6 years of control when it comes to service time, and a year of service time is 172 days for some reason. The major league season is roughly 183 days. So by holding guys in the minors for part of a year, a team can gain an extra year of contract control on a player that may be in high demand.

Obviously with a player like Mallex, and a team that's really not expected to win anything, bringing him up for a full year of service time would be stupid for the Braves. They'd be ceding a full year of control over a matter of a few weeks. From a business standpoint, that's insane. From a player standpoint, it's eating into their chances to make real free agent money.

The most famous issue of this coming up was Kris Bryant on the Cubs, where Chicago wanted to hold him for about two weeks until after the season started to gain another year under the collective bargaining agreement. This is also inevitably really stupid when you think about. It's manipulation by the teams to gain what essentially was a full year of time, but not really a full year under the CBA rules. Granted, it's a loophole, but it's a really dumb one from a player perspective.

That's why Kris Bryant filed a grievance. And to be honest, I agree with him. But the rules you agreed to as players are the rules, and it's probably going to take a change in the CBA to deal with the issue. And guess what? That CBA expires at the end of this season on Dec. 1, 2016. And guess what again? I think we're in for a hum-dinger of a fight.

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