The Cubs and the CBA

Luke discussed the potential schedule impact of the pending collective bargaining agreement on the Cubs a few days ago. Today, further tidbits on what is being discussed for the next CBA came out. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Type B free agent compensation would be eliminated and effective immediately once the CBA is finalized and agreed to. There is even word that the fringe players on the Type A free agent list would be demoted off. This is an interesting development, especially if it is to be implemented right away this off season, as front offices around baseball surely had been making moves and decisions under the assumption that these free agent designations would at least carry through this winter. 

How does this affect the Cubs? Free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez is currently a Type B along with Carlos Pena. Once Ramirez and his agent declined their half of the mutual option, it pretty much guaranteed that his departure would bring a supplemental draft pick for the Cubs. The chance to cash in on the slugging first baseman Pena’s Type B status is not as clear cut, as the Cubs would have to offer arbitration. If Pena were to accept, it may put the new front office in a position to have to pay Pena more than they would like for 2012.

As Phil Rogers noted in his article this morning, Theo Epstein had milked this compensation system to collect extra draft picks during his time with the Red Sox. With one of the main intentions of hiring Epstein being to boost a lagging farm system, this proposed item as part of the new CBA would prove to be an unfortunate obstacle. The concern is immediate because of the chance to cash in on Ramirez, as mentioned earlier, but the long term impact is even greater since Epstein has a history of success with this system that would have been refreshing to see at Wrigley Field. Former GM Jim Hendry was the opposite in recent years, failing to offer arbitration that could have netted some bonus draft picks. Bottom line, to benefit the Cubs going forward, this change should be implemented gradually over the course of the coming seasons instead of abruptly right now.

Joe Torre also mentioned to reporters that there is serious talk of adjusting the Major League roster sizes for September. Currently teams are allowed to expand their roster from 25 men to 40 players. This allowed teams to call up some of their prospects for a look in the big leagues, but critics argued that the expanded rosters could cause unfair advantages in a month when playoff races were going down to the wire. Cubs fans may be familiar with Bob Brenly’s idea to flip flop the concept, if teams insist on keeping the expansion system, and have the expanded rosters be valid in April. The benefits that Brenly points out include being able to sort out some of the roster battles during the first couple weeks into the regular season, as opposed to managers having to make a gut instinct call at the end of Spring Training.

For the Cubs, it would have given the coaching staff some regular season results to pounder regarding a Casey McGehee or a Scott Moore in past years. In 2011 it could have resulted in avoiding the melt down from Carlos Silva and allow Mike Quade to see if the rotund starter could replicate the amazing 2010 first half results. If Brenly’s idea is implemented, for the near future, it would buy the Cubs more time in assessing position battles that are likely to occur in the outfield and behind the plate, along with seeing which young pitchers extend their Spring Training success into the regular season.

On a related note, I believe that the roster limit should at least be increased to 26 for the entire regular season and even post season. With the proposed move of the Houston Astros to the American League West creating a more balanced schedule, the number of interleague games will approximately double for each team. The Cubs would go from playing 15 interleague games a season to 30. Half of those games would be played on the road at American League ballparks, where the Designated Hitter is utilized. With National League rosters not quite tailored to have a DH on the bench, the extra roster spot would allow NL teams to consider adding one extra bat to the roster. For AL teams that see less pitching change decisions affected with where the pitcher’s spot is due up in the batting order, the additional roster spot could allow for another bullpen arm if they so wish. The Major League Baseball Players Association benefits because 30 more jobs were just created that need to be filled, as opposed to some of their union members being out of work or being stuck in AAA ball.

This would impact the Cubs because Alfonso Soriano as a part time DH and bat off the bench for $18 million a season while avoiding the comical defense in left field is more useful than just cutting the aging slugger and eating $54 million. On a similar train of thought, it would help distribute at bats in what is an over crowded outfield picture for the Cubs, even if the front office is able to trade away Soriano and/or Marlon Byrd.

While the MLB CBA negotiations are being handled quietly (and well in advance of the current agreements expiration) compared highly publicized NFL and NBA situations, the impact of whatever new deal agreed upon for the Cubs is one that the front office and Cubbies Crib fans will definitely need to keep an eye on.

Topics: Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Bob Brenly, Carlos Pena, Carlos Silva, Casey McGehee, Chicago Cubs, Jim Hendry, Marlon Byrd, Mike Quade, Scott Moore, Theo Epstein

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