I don't think it that easy. Yes, certainly more sympathy for the minor leaguers who got perhaps a $5K bonus to sign and are paid below minimum wage for years in minors at a pittance, with the majority never ever seeing MLB. Now MLB says it will raise the minor league salaries, while cutting the number of minor league teams and players. Is this a good thing? Certainly not for the minor league cities and towns. Maybe not for baseball. I'll argue probably yes for the minor league players, many of whom have no realistic chance to be MLB players, even for a cup of coffee, and would be better off just beginning their real careers. In the grand scheme of things, half of minor league players are filler to allow the prospects to have a full team to play on. It's also possible that with fewer levels in the minors that more players would reach the majors a year sooner. The 26th man on the roster will have either that effect or extend some guys career an extra year or two. I think the smart teams will add a young player sooner.
Should I feel outrage (to strong a word for me, but here goes) on behalf of Kris Bryant's plight? I feel closer to yes than to no. He developed his skill in college, rather than minors, earned #2 position in draft, probably could have played in MLB right out of college, at least had he left as senior, or a single partial season right from signing to AA and then majors. He is one of the fortunate few minor leaguers who signed to a big ($6.7 MM) bonus, so had plenty of $ to see his way through minors. But, counting bonus plus salary, he's putt up 25.4 bWAR for $32 million. At $1.3 M/WAR he is a super bargain and grossly underpaid. Is it fair that he work 2 more seasons before signing a FA contract? Consider:
-- baseball operates under a unique Congress-granted anti-trust exemption
-- in line with other sports, he had no choice of which employer to work for out of college, but...
-- unlike any other sport, the baseball team who drafted and signed him in 2013 gets to own his exclusive rights for 9 years, through 2021. For draftees with more time in minors, it can be years longer than that. No other sport comes remotely close to that period of having to work for the not-of-your-own-choice team at below market wages.
-- These 9 years are almost certain to be the most valuable years of his career. Baseball management is wising up to the perils of a system which overpays older, seriously declining players.
--2019 was an injury season, but Bryant seems on the decline, already. Two years from now? He's already gone from a plus dWAR at third base to -1.1 last year. He's worth less at 1B. He averaged 6.5 WAR in first 3 years, 1.8 in past two years, part injury, part reduced defensive value, part reduce oWAR.
Then consider that owners have taken a larger share of revenues in recent years and that the owners are just about the worst example of American capitalism: monopolists, other owners must approve a new owner and it acts as old-boys club, they hit up cities to provide low-rent, untaxed stadia, they can move cities almost on a whim.
Nope, nothing but scorn for the owners. Bryant is a victim of the system, he simply just isn't the biggest victim. He is the sort of star player who puts fannies in the seats and personally generates a lot of team revenue. I won't say the Cubs need him as much as they needed Ernie Banks, who brought fans to a losing team, but they badly need him.
For Bryant to end up with a fair shake value for his personal service, baseball will need to stick with the pay model for older players which prevailed in the nought decade. I think that model is already changing and will change a lot more.