Chicago Cubs could have their hands tied by CBA negotiations

(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Colorado Rockies/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Colorado Rockies/Getty Images) /

As the date for renegotiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (December 1) approaches, it’s probably a good idea to determine what each side wants, and if possible, try to determine which of those wants might be met. With the Chicago Cubs poised to have an active offseason, the terms of the next agreement will be critical for the team.

The pessimists in the game seem to feel that a labor stoppage is almost inevitable, even as that kind of job action would seem to be forestalled by the owner’s insistence on a winter date to begin, taking a general strike out of the MLBPA’s bag of tricks.

Optimists think that neither side would be stupid enough to forego a year of possible profits after so recently suffering “biblical losses”.

The Cubs especially seem to be building with the idea of such an event in mind. The farm has been restocked with players at the lower levels of the minor leagues, with a big hole around Triple-A, where the personnel will be spilt between up-and-comers and potential taxi squad members. The Iowa shuttle still operates, but it has a different schedule now.

Chicago Cubs might have hands tied by the CBA negotiations this winter

Here’s the current CBA, with its 12/1 expiration.

Let’s see what we know so far:

"According to the Athletic, “MLB’s proposal included a four-tier luxury-tax system, adding a new tier to the bottom of the current three-tier structure. The new initial tier would be $180 million, and tax rates would begin at 25 percent. The current system has the initial tier at $210 million with tax rates starting at 20 percent … The proposed salary floor, which does not exist in the current CBA, would be set at $100 million.”"

This isn’t likely to fly. The floor might stand, but the MLBPA is against a luxury tax of any kind, viewing it as a de facto salary cap (with considerable justification). The players want some kind of hedge against tanking.

"“Baseball is a great game. The fans who support this game are who I have my eyes on. If they’re going to pay their hard-earned money to see us play, I want to make sure that the league is the most competitive version it can be,” says prominent player rep Max Scherzer, whose status is probably up in the air right now, but whose words are likely to be echoed among his brethren."

Indeed the AP reports that: “Negotiations have proceeded slowly, and both sides appear to be bracing for a lockout that could start either on Dec. 1 or when players are scheduled to report to spring training in February.”

The initial proposal has mutated into a revised service time arrangement in which arbitration-eligible players split a $1 billion pool and all players become a free agent at 29 1/2 years old. Again, the players are going to see that set amount as a cap.

The CBS article goes on to conclude that “The general rule of thumb is if MLB proposes it, it saves the owners money somehow…” Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but those proposals don’t then redistribute said funds back into the system.

"“The best I can say to you is that our No. 1 priority is to get a new agreement without a work stoppage,” Rob Manfred said. “It’s that simple.”"

But it doesn’t look that way. It doesn’t look good, with both sides trying to milk public sentiment.

Revenue structure, the path to free agency, and team payroll expenditures are the main items in question, and each are held close to the chest. “The players’ sentiment is best illustrated by the $500 million grievance filed by the MLBPA that alleges the owners negotiated and ultimately imposed the pandemic shortened season, via the commissioner, in bad faith.”

dark. Next. Ricketts can silence critics if he actually spends this winter

This is all we have, for now. Ian Happ is the Cubs’ player representative, and he is both vocal and articulate. As always, the outcome remains to be seen.