How will the MLB lockout impact the Chicago Cubs moving forward?

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
1 of 3
Rob Manfred / Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

And so the lockout has begun. Let’s hope it’s not ‘The Lockout’; those caps will mean something’s gone horribly wrong. As the owners and players head into the trenches, let’s take a look at how the CBA negotiations might affect the Chicago Cubs in their journey back to postseason contention.

A recently leaked Players’ Association document lays out four key issues for the players: (1) the luxury tax and draft pick compensation; (2) raising salaries for younger players; (3) tanking; and (4) service time manipulation. While the owners’ shopping list hasn’t been posted on the interwebs, one key focus of theirs will be playoff expansion. Let’s look at each of these issues in turn.

Luxury tax and draft pick compensation

Formally (and self-servingly) called the Competitive Balance Tax in the CBA, this punishes the highest spending teams with fines and draft penalties. The owners will likely want to lower the threshold at which the penalties kick in, and indeed made a proposal to this effect, linked to a minimum payroll requirement. The players want to get rid of the luxury tax entirely. That (sadly) is not going to happen, but they will fight hard to avoid any drastic lowering of the threshold. Given the players’ seemingly weaker bargaining position (more on this in a minute), a modest tightening of the screw is a reasonably likely outcome. While the luxury tax by design disproportionately harms high-revenue teams, the Cubs’ payroll now and for the next couple of years (at least) will probably be below any likely threshold.

Draft pick compensation, that is, forfeiting draft picks in exchange for signing certain free agents, has been a sore point for players since the system’s inception. It has evolved over the years, and currently requires the signing team to forfeit one or more picks if the player’s original team made a qualifying offer – a one-year contract at the average of the top 125 salaries. Additional penalties apply to teams exceeding the luxury tax. Currently, the highest forfeitable pick is a team’s second pick. Players would like to push compensation picks into the later rounds or do away with the system entirely. Should they succeed, that would probably make it easier for the Cubs to fortify their home-grown roster with free agents when the time comes.