How To Fix Cubs, CBA Issues From MLB In 3 Easy Steps – NBC Chicago


Wittenmyer: How To Fix MLB, Cubs In 3 Easy Steps originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

We are a week away from the baseball collective bargaining agreement expiring with no signs of a new contract being around.

And while White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf suggested last month that most of the progress in such negotiations is closer to the deadline, all indications are that the MLB is preparing to lock players out once the 23rd deadline: 59 o’clock on December 1st has expired.

But it never had to come to that. Not if baseball owners had the vision and the will to pay the price of a few obvious changes to fix some of the worst problems in the game and the biggest problems that cause the industrial action – problems that are also at the heart of Cubs’ business practices That left the big guys – revenue giants for the second time in a decade in full blown rebuilding.

At the moment, few seem to expect the workforce impasse to delay the 2022 season. Even baseball commissioner Rob Manfred downplayed the importance of a lockout last week, which at this stage of the negotiation is more of a leverage strategy than a sign of impending doom for the next season.

But it will come with an off-season transaction freeze; The MLB has already postponed the announcement period for arbitrators and arbitrators in the 40-man squad to November 30th in advance.

But for the sake there was a way to avoid all of this – and for Reinsdorf to get his desired trip to Disney World next week.

Additionally, the biggest issues and general bargaining hassles for a generation – refueling, tenure rigging, and wage cut – could all but be eliminated in just three simple steps.

Not that industry leaders would.

But if MLB ever finds the will we have the way:

1. Eliminate the amateur spending caps

The fixed caps on draft bonus awards and international amateur bonus awards – which cost clubs heavy penalties for violations – have had a direct, if unintended, consequence of fueling the game’s tanking trend over the past 10 seasons since its inception in 2012 two CBAs.

Unable to pay bonuses through the slot to hard-to-hire players deeper in the draft and unrestricted prizes to international amateurs, competitive teams have fewer opportunities to replenish impact talent in their farm systems .

The two ways to increase the ability to spend according to the current rules for amateurs are (1) gradually “earning” higher spending quotas by gradually ending up closer to the bottom of the win-loss ranking among the 30 teams, or (2) up to trade in $ 250,000 increments against international slots from other teams. The latter method costs trading capital and is not eligible for draft bonus awards; The former method has the greatest impact and is the cheapest – because refueling at the front end of the process often saves even more money than it costs in the extra money spent on amateurs at the back end.

This is the “race to the bottom” that Agent Scott Boras criticized during the general manager meeting two weeks ago.

And the biggest driver for that refueling – the amateur caps – is something the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer regime recognized and lamented when the new restrictions struck them in the face just as it was 10 years ago when the baseball Operations of the Cubs took over.

Epstein’s front office in Boston had for years been one of the few in the majors to ignore the commissioner’s slot “guidelines” and sign anyone it designed for whatever it wanted to spend, regardless of their position.

That meant a new plan with the new rules in Chicago. And that also included becoming the first high-revenue team in history to purposely fuel full seasons.

(Let’s not start with what looks like Round 2).

With young talent increasingly seen as the most important asset in the game, the quickest, easiest way to solve baseball’s fueling problem is to remove access to young talent.

2. Create a Super 5 status for free agents

The problem of service-time manipulation that has been neglected in recent years with Kris Bryant’s brief, unfair demotion to Triple-A in 2015, which ensured a seventh season of club control (and resulted in a failed complaint against the Cubs) found adjusting how many days it takes to qualify for a season played.

But using a percentage formula that doesn’t specify a date or a predetermined number of cadre days – similar to how Super 2 status is determined for players eligible to arbitrate – could at least reduce the incentive to manipulate.

Namely: 172 days on the roster of the big league are usually considered a full season in the major league. Players often reach six full seasons to achieve free agent status.

For example, during the 186 day 2021 season, a 15th day in the minors would ensure that a player would not reach a full season of service in 2021 (it took even fewer days in the minors to do Bryant 2015). ).

Change the authorization threshold to 170 or 160 or something else and the manipulation will simply recalculate around the new number.

But consider the effect of a system that uses the Super 2 formula – at the end of each season, rate all players with, in this case, between five and six years of service and then the top 22 percent free agency (or 20 percent or 25 or 30 etc.).

Execute the projection models however you want – as many teams do now to manipulate arbitration status.

In theory, variables in these projections would persist for most of the process – including the fact that collective agreements with the potential for rule change would expire in shorter cycles (five years).

Even the best attempts at manipulation within a stable set of rules harbor a potentially higher risk.

Do you keep a Kris Bryant – or a Vlad Guerrero Jr. or anyone else – in the minors for an extra few weeks before you make a big league debut, and what’s big from a team perspective?

But for a team trying to win in a given season, you should change two weeks to two months and it could start to hurt. Not to mention the possibility of team-player relationships developing even worse than the current system can sometimes produce.

Might as well give Bryant the opening day list he deserves, right?

To the right.

3. Tie luxury tax thresholds to industry revenue

Owners have looked for CBA funds to protect themselves when it comes to supposedly overpaid players since the free agency began more than four decades ago, particularly wage / salary caps, which in turn have become the historic non-starters of all non-starters for the union.

But after decades of industrial peace, an increasingly fat and happier union of well-paid gamblers fell asleep at the negotiating desk and allowed owner-friendly, wage-suppressing mechanisms into the last two CBAs.

The most important of these was an arbitrary sequence of annual thresholds for the competitive equalization tax – or “luxury tax” – which required increasing severity of penalties for exceeding different salary levels and for offenses in successive seasons.

Coupled with the harsh spending caps for the amateurs, it provides another incentive to refuel and has been a major driver of the slowdown in free agent markets in recent years and the first cuts in the game’s average annual salaries (pre-pandemic) since the owners were found guilty of collusion in the 1980s.

An important issue that the union does not seem to have considered: mathematics.

The CBT thresholds were set with no apparent recognition of the revenue of the record industry of that era due to a massive spike in broadcast rights revenue – with every franchise now poised to be in the black and each franchise now valued at more than $ 1 billion (the Cubs from a purchase price of $ 846 million in 2009 to a Forbes estimate of $ 3.36 billion in 2021).

With industry revenue increasing 10 percent or more year over year over the decade, the first tier of luxury tax thresholds rose for the five seasons by exactly 3.2 percent, 1 percent, 3.6 percent, 0, 97 percent and 0.96 percent of the CBA, which expires on December 1 – after five years with similarly small percentage increases over the five-year term of the previous CBA.

Cubs executives knew what that meant for their ability to hold a 2016 champion together as soon as they saw the new CBA, which went into effect in 2017 after it first crossed the threshold in 2016.

“If you miss the game,” said Epstein at the 2020 Cubs Convention, explaining the team’s lack of free agent activity, “the teams that won the World Series at the start of the CBA have players going through the arbitration process have and make lots of money in arbitration and whoever has added free agents on the side – we, the Red Sox, the Astros – there is a pattern that something was expected.

“After the CBA announcement, it was clear that for high profile teams, if you dig deeper into the CBA, unless you had a chance to sit back along the way, with maybe a year of being uncompetitive at close of trading or something like that, it would be difficult to bring additional talent into the squad. “

Not that players would trust the accounting numbers provided by the owners, but a negotiated formula to raise CBT thresholds on revenue, possibly under third-party supervision, would fix this problem, some of the recent tightness in the markets for free Loosen up agents and be fairer to players.

It won’t do anything to restore the Cubs championship window anytime soon.

But those three simple steps would almost certainly bring about an employment contract and keep revenue growth at the table for both parties – and maybe even usher in a long, new era of industrial peace.

Not that the owners would give in on any of these three issues, no matter how good it might be for industrial relations, public perception, and the game’s overall business.

At least they have plenty of time to think about it if they lock out players in a few days, freeze transactions, and hang another work cloud over spring training plans.

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