Chicago Cubs 3B Kris Bryant will become a free agent after the 2021 season at the same time that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. Here’s why he could be unemployed in the summer of 2022.
For the Chicago Cubs, when the clock strikes midnight on December 1, 2021, Major League Baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement will expire. It will then be time for the league and Player’s Association to sit down and try to come to terms on a new deal. But the two sides won’t be the only ones negotiating a new contract.
Sure, there could be some inexplicable alignment of the stars that results in all sides coming to a swift, peaceful agreement. But if this season’s Bryce Harper, uh…sweepstakes? is any indication of what’s to come, the 2021-22 offseason could be VERY long for baseball and Cubs fans alike.
It’s now February 5. The Super Bowl is over, semi trucks are en route to their respective spring training destinations, and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sit at home waiting to sign a contract.
The similarities in Harper’s and Bryant’s free agencies are already shaping up to have numerous parallels. Not only do both players hail from Las Vegas, Nevada but they also are signed to Scott Boras as clients.
More from Da Windy City
- 3 takeaways from Chicago Blackhawks shootout loss to Nashville
- Chicago Cubs in the middle of chaos that is Shohei Ohtani’s free agency
- The Chicago Cubs are on a roller coaster of emotions chasing Shohei Ohtani
- Chicago Bears quietly compiling list of head coaching candidates
- Chicago White Sox News: Erick Fedde signs two-year deal
That’s enough to make any fan dread the impending free agency.
According to sources, Bryant and Co. have already turned down numerous extension offers in previous years, though it’s unclear exactly how much the extensions were worth. According to 670 The Score, “all indications” point to a Kris Bryant bidding war in 2021-22.
That shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone seeing as though Boras seems to prefer that his clients hit free agency instead of signing an extension prior to the expiration of their current contract. Sure, there are some exceptions (see Beltre, Adrian, and Strasburg, Stephen). But for a player like Bryant, one can reasonably expect to see another Bryce Harper-like free agency.
Even their numbers are eerily similar. Though Harper has a larger sample size, his .279/.388/.512 slash line is barely any different from Bryant’s .285/.385/.515.
We already know that Harper is going to get a ridiculous contract when he signs in the coming weeks. Many estimates project well over $300 million for him, despite hitting below .250 in two of the last three seasons. And although one could argue that not a single human on earth needs money like that, it’s simply a sign of the times.
Major League Baseball is seeing record revenues right now. For the second year in a row, the league surpassed $10 billion in revenue. And although contracts continue to grow to record highs, their growth doesn’t come close to matching the income growth that the league has experienced in recent years.
According to Deadspin.com, Major League Baseball saw revenue growth of 188 percent in the past 16 years. However, the luxury tax threshold has only increased by 68 percent in that same amount of time. The article goes on to explain how the luxury tax threshold has essentially become a salary cap for Major League Baseball.
You better believe that the luxury tax cap will be a large topic of discussion between the two sides in Winter of 2021.
So what does that mean for Kris Bryant’s free agency?
In short, it means that winter is coming for Bryant and the league. If the Players’ Association decides to press the issue on the luxury tax threshold and attempt to raise the threshold or even abolish it altogether, one would expect the Bryant-Boras train to hold off on any contract negotiations until the details of luxury tax and payroll are sorted out.
According to a small poll conducted by USA Today of 63 current big leaguers, 65% of them believe that a strike is necessary in 2021. No doubt it’s not just because of the luxury tax that players feel that way. There are plenty of other significant details to be ironed out, including but certainly not limited to player service time, arbitration eligibility, and minor league pay.
We could be facing a long, drawn out negotiation and lockout in just a couple of short years. Perhaps even a lot longer than Harper’s free agency saga. Heck, we may not even see baseball until the summer of 2022 if the two sides are too far apart.
If that’s the case, it’s legitimately possible that Kris Bryant could be unemployed in the summer of 2022 as a result of any lengthy lockout. If fans think that Harper’s negotiations have been frustrating, just wait until there’s a Collective Bargaining Agreement needing to be hashed out first.
Ideally, the Cubs are able to lock up Bryant before he hits free agency and the possibility of him being unemployed in the summer becomes a moot point. But between Scott Boras and what’s sure to be a very difficult CBA negotiation, I wouldn’t count on that possibility.
There’s plenty of other things to worry about before we even get to that point, but it may be something for the front office to consider now.
Fortunately for Cubs fans, there’s still a couple more years to win another championship with Bryant before he becomes a free agent. That should give fans some peace of mind for now. Hopefully, the league’s record labor peace can continue after 2021 and all of this won’t be an issue.
Now let’s return to our regularly scheduled programming of trying to figure out where Bryce Harper will be at the end of February 2019.