Team spending restrictions could be an issue in negotiations for MLB’s next Collective Bargaining Agreement, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Specifically, the debt structure of the Ricketts family’s heavily financed purchase of the Cubs in 2009 required the team to tie baseball spending to revenues, limiting its ability to spend. Other clubs face similar restrictions.
“Cubs aside, larger picture, any time there are contractual obligations or language that affect the way a team functions, against the backdrop of the decisions that they are going to be making, against whatever restrictions are in place, we enter that equation,” says MLBPA head Tony Clark. “Rest assured, we’re interested enough to be involved in the conversation.”
MLB’s current CBA expires after the 2016 season. Wittenmyer suggests that the union’s main issue with team banking restrictions is that teams might use them as excuses not to spend.
The Cubs have operated with dramatically limited payrolls in recent years, with their Opening Day payroll falling from a high of about $144MM in 2010 to about $93MM last season (via Cot’s Contracts). Obviously, the team’s splashier 2014-15 offseason, highlighted by their signing of Jon Lester, will produce a higher payroll in 2015 (and Wittenmyer notes that the team did hold over money budgeted for 2014 to spend this winter). But team president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has emphasized that the team’s lower recent payrolls were not purely a function of the fact that the team had been rebuilding.
“We’re not withholding dollars from this year’s team. We are spending every dollar that we have on this baseball team,” Epstein said in 2013 (via David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com), when the Cubs had an Opening Day payroll about about $107MM. “We maxed out our payroll last year and we maxed out our payroll this year.”