How Cubs, Willson Contreras Talks Might Be Impacted by New CBA

How new CBA deal might impact Contreras extension talks originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

MESA, Ariz. — Now that the Cubs have announced a contract extension for manager David Ross and the lockout has been lifted, can extension talks for All-Star catcher Willson Contreras be far behind?

“Being candid, we always keep that stuff internal,” Cubs president Jed Hoyer said.

Putting aside for a moment whatever Hoyer’s definition of “candid” might be, the Cubs’ most pressing contract issue involving a player already on the roster figures to heat up during this abbreviated spring training that officially opens Monday with first workouts.

For now, Hoyer is one of 30 baseball operations bosses in MLB whose phone has been overheating in the 24 hours since owners and players reached agreement on a new labor deal Thursday afternoon.

And with pitching and shortstop holes to fill — not to mention a 9.5-percent increase in baseball’s de facto salary cap to potentially play with — Hoyer figures to be busy for at least the next few days before having the time to turn his attention to his two-time All-Star catcher.

“Right now with every team it’s incredibly busy trying to fill out a roster. This is a condensed window,” said Hoyer, who signed pitcher Marcus Stroman, catcher Yan Gomes and outfielder Clint Frazier in the days leading up to MLB’s Dec. 2 lockout of the players and resulting transaction freeze.

“You want to get guys in camp as quickly as you can,” he said. “Not all those deals are going to come together right away, but that’s certainly the goal.

“As far as our own guys, once we have kind of filled out our roster, that’s something we’ll re-address.”

The Cubs failed to get extensions done in recent years with other championship-core players and fan favorites, eventually trading away Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez and Kris Bryant during a 24-hour purge in July.

Contreras, who made $6.65 million in 2021, is in his final year of arbitration eligibility and club control (teams and players exchange figures March 22, with hearings to be during the season, in this year's delayed process).

How might the biggest cap increase in the history of baseball’s competitive balance tax (or luxury tax) impact those talks or any involving free agent targets?

“We’re very much still digging in on that,” Hoyer said. “We obviously got [the details of the agreement] last night. We’re reading through it, but as we’ve talked about even going back to when we got here in 2011, the CBA has a huge impact on team strategy.”

Among the terms in the new CBA is a $20 million increase in the first luxury tax threshold, to $230 million in 2022 — the largest single-year increase in the two-decade history of the system. The 9.5-percent increase is the second-largest ever — and largest since 2010 (9.9 percent).

“Right now we have some ideas about how it’s going to play out, but we’re going to see,” he added. “Over the next couple years we’ll see what kind of changes come to our game and what changes come to team strategy based on the CBA. That always has a big impact.”

So who are the Cubs going to use all their payroll flexibility to sign next to play for their newly extended manager?

“If I had the answer, you guys would be drooling at the mouth to know that one,” said Ross, who wouldn’t bite on a question alluding to free agent shortstop Carlos Correa.

“I leave that stuff up to the front office,” he said. “Hopefully, soon, we’ve got some different news for you.”

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