The St. Louis Cardinals have some preparing to do now that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is done and the Winter Meetings are back on.
The St. Louis Cardinals and all MLB teams can rejoice as an agreement for the CBA was reached just one day before the December 1st expiration date. This avoids a lockout for the MLB and it also means that the rumors of teams planning to skip the Winter Meetings are out the window. The premiere off season event is back on.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement will last for five years. It came down to the wire, but the 21 years of peace between the union and the ownership will continue lockout free. However, this new CBA has some huge changes in it.
One of the biggest reasons there was a holdout on a new CBA was the luxury tax provision. This rule is somewhat of a salary cap except teams can surpass it. If a team exceeds the pre-determined amount for a single season’s payroll, they will have to pay an extra “luxury” tax. The amount is determined by how far over the limit they are and how many years that team has been over the limit.
Under the old deal, the luxury tax was set at 189 million dollars. The new deal raises the number to 195 million for next season. By the end of the five years the tax will gradually increase to sit somewhere between 210 and 215 million dollars. There will also be a larger penalty for teams over 250 million. Overall, the tax will rise about 50 percent from where it previously was.
The other big issue was commissioner Rob Manfred wanted to implement an international draft. Owners pushed back, and there will be no draft with the new CBA. There will, however, be a limit to how much an international player can be signed for their first MLB contract. The limit is between five and six million dollars.
There was one huge unexpected change. Starting next offseason, there will be no loss of a first round selection when signing a free agent with a qualifying offer. However, there will still be compensation though that will depend largely on the luxury tax. Teams over the luxury tax will forfeit a second and fifth round pick. Teams under the tax will lose a third rounder. In addition, no player can receive a qualifying offer more than once.
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Rumors of the roster size expanding to 26 did not come to fruition. Regular season rosters remain at 25 man rosters with September call-ups. So despite the previously mentioned changes, rosters remain the same. Other than the luxury tax, free agency, and limit for international contracts, the CBA is largely similar to the agreement that was set to expire.
With all the new rules, that leaves the St. Louis Cardinals will some decisions to make. It may be worth spending low this offseason to go big in a year with the 2018 free agent class looking like one of the best in baseball history. In a weak free agent class now and with every outfielder being widely debated, maybe holding off is the right decision.
But, the Rule 5 Draft will factor into their winter plans and come into play soon. There are several Cardinal players that may be taken away, but this draft has proven fruitful for the organization in previous years. The acquisition of Matt Bowman for the 2016 bullpen is just the most recent successful example.
All of the trade rumors about players like Andrew McCutchen, AJ Pollock, and Chris Sale being available could be huge for the St. Louis Cardinals as the December 4th starting date of the Winter Meetings approaches. Historically, free agents are a huge part of the Winter Meetings as well. The questions surrounding players like Dexter Fowler and Justin Turner, who have been liked to the Cards, may be answered as well.
A new CBA agreement and the reigniting of the Winter Meetings throws a wrench into the puzzle that is creating a championship roster for the future. It will certainly be interesting to see how general manager John Mozeliak handles this off season, and fills the need to bring in an outfielder.