Grievance with Phils not a distraction for Franco

February 29th, 2016

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If third baseman Maikel Franco becomes the player the Phillies expect him to be, the club will be delighted to have him under team control through 2021.

But that's not a sure thing. Franco filed a grievance with the Phillies last year claiming they manipulated his service time to delay his eligibility for free agency. Franco opened the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley and wasn't recalled until May 15, despite hitting .355 with a .923 OPS in 151 plate appearances in Triple-A. Franco accrued 170 days of service time with the Phillies, which is two days short of a full season.

Those two days delayed his free agency from 2020 to '21.

"Nothing has been decided at this point," Franco's agent, Ryan Royster, said in a telephone interview Monday morning. "Right now, I think what we want to focus on is Maikel getting prepared for the season. He's in camp, he's in uniform, he's with his teammates and that's where he wants to be right now."

Royster declined to comment on the timeline for a potential resolution. The Mets recently awarded Ruben Tejada an extra day of service time, which allows him to become a free agent following the season. He had been short one day.

"The grievance and things like that, that's not what his focus is on right now," Royster said. "All Maikel wants to do is win, and win in Philly."

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak could not be reached for comment Monday. But when news first broke about the grievance during the Winter Meetings, he said he wasn't concerned about it bothering Franco.

"I'm not particularly concerned with their being a carryover or on-field effect," Klentak said.

MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark spoke to Phillies players Monday morning at Bright House Field. He declined to address Franco's case, but spoke generally about teams possibly keeping players in the Minor Leagues to gain an extra season of team control.

"It's unfortunate to talk about why a particular player outside of his ability would find himself in a place where there appears to be some manipulation related to when he comes up," Clark said. "I don't like having the conversation. I think it's unfortunate. I think we're one of the only leagues where some can argue that the best players aren't on the field all the time. And I don't see how that's beneficial for the entire industry. It's been a topic of discussion. It's not new, unfortunately. I think if it were easy to remedy perhaps it would have been discussed in a different fashion. It is something we'll continue to have dialogue on and see where it goes."

Clark said service time rules are "worthy of more discussion" as MLB and the MLBPA begin negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.