A big week lies ahead for Major League Baseball, with the owners and players today officially receiving the financial proposal for the season, likely to include concessions sought from the players on salary, and then likely sparking a vigorous negotiation from there.
If the league is going to stick to its hoped-for timeline of starting the season around July 1, it is really going to need at least three weeks for a safe Spring Training II. And if that Spring Training II is to begin around June 10, then these negotiations need to be wrapped up by this time next week. Otherwise, the logistics of actually getting players in position to report and starting training in a way consistent with the health and safety protocols would become insurmountable. That is not to say the timeline couldn’t be adjusted, but this is viewed as the current deadline: get a deal done by the start of next week. And that means you’re hoping that what the league and owners come to the table with today is reasonable.
• Speaking of owners and finances and such, this column got a lot of play over the weekend because of the tease and the subject matter:
.@PWSullivan: Some believe the Cubs’ owners face a more dire forecast than most of their peers because of their investments in Wrigleyville, the Marquee Sports Network and the rooftops. Would they ultimately be forced to sell off high-priced players?https://t.co/i1UQBiKOZn
— Chicago Tribune Sports (@ChicagoSports) May 25, 2020
• I’d caution you that there’s really not a lot of evidence there, so to speak, beyond things you hopefully have already internalized by now. Namely, it was already the case before the pandemic that the Cubs were making roster decisions based on financial considerations (remember that whole three-time luxury tax offender during the current CBA stuff?). The situation informing those decisions has changed, massively, but the story is mostly the same: given the way last offseason proceeded, the Cubs were unlikely to be massive spenders this coming offseason, and indeed, may seek to sell even more with an eye toward a longer-term view.
• That said, one thing the column does underscore, and it bears mentioning again, though we’ve said it plenty: anyone who thinks they know what the financial fallout of this pandemic will be (well, any fallout from this pandemic actually) is kidding themselves. We don’t yet know what damage has already been done. We don’t know what TV behavior will be this year when more sports return. We don’t know what consumer behavior will be because of economic pain. And, of course, we don’t know what fan behavior will be when it comes to attending games even next year. We just don’t know. And when faced with that uncertainty, and eating significant losses this year, yes, the Cubs’ owners – like other teams – are going to adjust budgets for next year. When the time comes, we can evaluate the financial situation as best as we can, and then we can contextually rail on decisions made (if appropriate). But for now, I don’t think it is intellectually honest to do more than say “no one knows, but it’s probably gonna be ugly.”
• Bonus point: if the Cubs are in a situation where they have to “sell off high-priced players” solely because they are so financially strapped … there will be no teams to buy those players. In a world like that, the market for big contracts – even in arb – is gonna be nothing. Teams literally will not want them.
• At the Boston Globe, an interesting question about the draft this year: with only five rounds, and with a maximum $20,000 bonus to sign players undrafted, might we see some guys take the Carter Stewart path and simply head over to Japan or South Korea to get paid? Stewart was a former top 10 draft pick who did not sign out of high school, went to junior college, and then was looking at being a second round pick in 2019. Instead, he went to the NPB on a six-year, $7 million deal. Could that possibility be wielded as leverage by guys who slip? There’s no question teams are going to keep the purses tight even within the first five rounds this year, and it’s also a certainty that the draft is going to shrink next year, too (maybe 20 rounds). With a possible backlog of talent building up in the states, you might be risking less at this moment in time by signing away some of your early years to go play overseas.
• For his part, Stewart, 20, will make his NPB debut next month as the league in Japan finally gets underway.
• The Cubs will be going for seven straight years if there is a season (though the challenge will be the fact that the whole “figuring it out” period is a much larger chunk of the season):
Fun, indeed. Even in the rebuild, the Cubs were consistently good at finding a solid mix of relievers after the first month or so of the season. https://t.co/XNObmupvwH
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) May 25, 2020
• This is (1) a fun story, (2) a great idea, and (3) an opportunity for you to win an awesome signed ball while supporting a great cause:
Help me raise money for charity and give away autographed baseballs https://t.co/NGAFd0NYs6
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) May 25, 2020
• Yadi showing off some Javy love:
• In the Cubs first home game after 9/11, Sammy Sosa and then-first base coach Billy Williams had an American flag ready, so that *when* Sammy homered – because they knew he would homer – they could do this: