Will the Luxury Tax Change in a Very Fundamental Way in Two Years and Other Cubs Bullets

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Will the Luxury Tax Change in a Very Fundamental Way in Two Years and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I got my ticket for ‘Star Wars’ Thursday night – late at night, but it’s the end of the saga, so eff it, I want the experience – so expect some vague, spoiler-free grousing here on Friday.

  • The nature of this year’s Winter Meetings got us thinking about the luxury tax. That is to say, the very fact that there were so many significant signings this year, as compared with recent years past, makes you wonder if we have all focused a little too much on the teams seeking to avoid the luxury tax than the teams willing to exceed it – perhaps the number is more or less historically normal, since only about two to four teams have typically exceeded the threshold? (I’m not saying that is good or bad or enough, I’m only saying that the aggressiveness of the Winter Meetings makes me wonder if the conversation has gotten too focused on one side of the equation.)
  • But more than that, some of the signings – the big ones – sure got us wondering whether the Yankees, Nationals, and Angels were anticipating that the luxury tax was going to change in some fundamental way after the current CBA expires. If not, some of those absolutely enormous AAV hits they’ve just taken on for the next near-decade would be a crippling blow to teams that seem to otherwise be obsessed with periodically getting themselves under the tax.
  • *AND,* since I don’t think those teams are just benevolent souls that transformed their previous practices to create goodwill among the players, I’m all the more curious as to whether those teams expect a fundamental shift in the tax after 2021. Consider this line slid into a mid-Winter-Meetings write-up from Joel Sherman about the Yankees’ aggressive pursuit of Gerrit Cole, before he signed: “But one official said the Yanks also know a new collective bargaining agreement is coming after 2021 with the players demanding to either eliminate the tax or make the thresholds substantially higher to allow the big markets to more comfortably spend.”
  • I don’t anticipate it would actually go away entirely – it’s called the “Competitive Balance Tax” for a reason – but a substantial increase would certainly serve the players well, especially if it were paired with what I see as the far more critical issue: earlier free agency and/or earlier arbitration. The game gets younger every year, and when the best, most impactful players aren’t being paid a reasonable chunk of the revenues, all kinds of systemic inefficiencies arise (the bad kind), and we have this bizarro situation where teams are castigated for not spending aggressively on free agents as a way to … backpay for the younger players who didn’t get paid? I’m not naive, and I get that team control and cost-control will always be a part of the system. But in the current era, six years (seven, if you ask Kris Bryant) is too much, particularly when it’s not even tied to when the player is drafted/signed.
  • So, anyway, it’s fair to wonder, against that backdrop: if the Cubs have made it a mandate (in actions, if not in words) to get under the luxury tax to reset their penalties (dramatic eye roll), would they, too, be more inclined then to spend aggressively next offseason because it will be the final year of the old CBA? Or will this whole thing cut the other way for some teams: maybe you anticipate the luxury tax to raise, but if team-control changes, too, maybe you want to plan to hold funds back even further so you’re in a position to pounce if the free agent market completely changes? This is all very hypothetical, long-term stuff, and I don’t have any hard conclusions right now. Just thinking out loud.
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  • I love that Bryant looked at this, because I’ve said before, I tend to think we’ve gone so far into exit velocity and launch angle that we’ve discarded a really nice catch-all contact stat like line drive rate, which can tell us some OTHER useful things about a guy’s profile:

  • I sure did love that Nelson Maldonado pick out of the draft. He was a senior who didn’t get much love as a junior in the draft because he hadn’t really hit his first three years, but broke out with the bat in that senior year … at Florida, in the SEC, where he absolutely raked (.343/.408/.575). He didn’t get on many radars because he’s a small guy without a power profile, and who had looked like a corner outfielder type at Florida. That just doesn’t really pop in the draft. Totally get it. But he’s a smart guy with an extreme line drive stroke who was raking in a top-tier college baseball environment. Give him a look in the later rounds! Why not?
(via FanGraphs)
  • And, so far, the adjustment to wood bats went just fine, as he basically did what he did in college: across rookie ball, short-season Low-A, and full-season Low-A, he hit .332/.378/.456, didn’t strike out, didn’t walk, and didn’t hit for power. As a 23-year-old who right now has only a tiny bit of experience at full-season Low-A (where hit hit just .311/.348/.409), you’d actually be a little freaked out by the profile if it was a guy you were relying on as a prospect. Lotta contact, no walks, no power, small guy? The BABIP usually shrivels by the time that guy reaches AA/AAA, and that’s it. But as a 21st round pick? Just take a guy who hit really well at a big college program and consistently squares the ball up. You never know what might happen – at the plate, or at a more appropriate position – when a little development is grafted onto a guy like that.
  • The Cubs had been at the forefront of arranging data deals with various institutions around the country, but that advantage is about to get squashed:



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.