Cubs

Quick thoughts on the Cubs and the new MLB labor deal

Quick thoughts on the Cubs and the new MLB labor deal

The next time the Cubs post the best record in Major League Baseball and make the World Series, they will have homefield advantage.

The MLB Players Association and MLB owners reached a new five-year tentative Collective Bargaining Agreement late Wednesday night and one of the main points of discussion is the news that the All-Star Game will no longer decide homefield advantage for the World Series.

That means 2016 was the final year under that rule, when the American League beat the National League, giving the Cleveland Indians homefield advantage over the Cubs, who led the majors with 103 wins.

But all's well that ends well as everything worked out just fine for the Cubs. 

In fact, not having homefield advantage actually helped the Cubs.

After dealing with the intense pressure from the fanbase and city at Wrigley Field for Games 3-5 of the World Series, the Cubs admitted they felt some of the pressure ease off when the series flipped back to Cleveland for Games 6 and 7. Then the Indians had to endure the nervous energy from their fanbase and city itching for a championship after a 68-year drought.

It also helped to give the Cubs the designated hitter, adding Kyle Schwarber (America's large adult son) to the lineup on a regular basis. It was Schwarber who ignited the championship-clinching 10th-inning rally.

The Cubs will enter next season as the favorites to win it all and repeat, meaning if they live up to expectations a second year in a row, they could be opening the 2017 World Series at Wrigley Field.

The All-Star Game rule also helps out Joe Maddon, who will manage the NL squad in 2017 and now doesn't have to worry about trying to win the exhibition game.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

While more information will come out and the "tentative" label will need to be removed, here's how else this new CBA will impact the Cubs:

Qualifying offer compensation

The qualifying offer system will still exist, but will undergo some major changes. 

Teams can still extend qualifying offers to players, but if declined, organizations will no longer receive a first-round pick as compensation and instead acquire a later pick in the draft.

That will no go into effect until after the 2017 season, however, meaning the Cubs will still receive a first-round pick if Dexter Fowler signs elsewhere after the "you go, we go" leadoff man declined the one-year qualifying offer.

Disabled list

The minimum time spent on the disabled list will move from 15 days to 10 on the new CBA.

That gives all teams the option of placing players on the disabled list and garnering an extra roster spot for just over a week instead of having to put a player on the shelf for more than two weeks at a time.

It will make things easier for Maddon's coaching staff and the Cubs front office when determining whether they should place a player on the disabled list or not.

Scheduling

Starting in 2018, the season will extend by four days to 187 overall as opposed to the 183-day regular seasons currently.

That will give each team an extra four days off during the season, reducing the grind of the schedule, giving players more time with their families during the season and a better chance to rest and remain fresh.

Maddon spent all 2016 ensuring his players got enough time off their feet and were "frisky" down the stretch, so an extra four days will only make that strategy easier for the Cubs manager.

Luxury tax threshold

The reported luxury tax figure for 2017 will be $195 million, up from $187 million this year. 

From there, the luxury tax will increase each season, going to a reported $197 in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021. 

The Cubs had a payroll north of $171 million in 2016 and have more than $93 million committed to only eight players (Jason Heyward, Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey, Miguel Montero, Jon Jay, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler) in 2017.

What Cubs lineup could look like in 2020 if Kris Bryant leads off

What Cubs lineup could look like in 2020 if Kris Bryant leads off

Kris Bryant told reporters Wednesday he's offered to leadoff for the Cubs this season to manager David Ross. And while nothing is set in stone, the 2016 NL MVP is one of the Cubs’ best options for the role.

Bryant isn’t a prototypical leadoff guy but it’s not like we’re discussing a cleanup man moving to the No. 1 spot in the lineup. Yes, he has power, but he’s also an on-base machine (career .385 OBP) who accepts his walks (career 11.9 percent walk rate).

Considering Bryant’s plate discipline, opponents will either have to pitch to him or run the risk of walking him ahead of Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras. Bryant leading off will give those guys more RBI opportunities. He’s also one of the Cubs’ best baserunners, and his ability to take an extra base benefits those hitting behind him.

It’s important to note Bryant wouldn’t change his approach in the top spot — his power won't just disappear. He has a career .502 OBP with the bases empty and could put the Cubs ahead right away with a long ball or put them in business with an extra-base hit.

Bryant will be himself no matter where he hits: an elite on-base guy who almost always puts together a quality at-bat. He’s as good a leadoff candidate as any on the Cubs (no disrespect meant to Anthony Rizzo, aka the “Greatest Leadoff Hitter Of All-Time”).

If Bryant leads off, here's what standard lineups could look like, both against righties and lefties:

Versus RHP

1. (R) Kris Bryant (3B)
2. (L) Anthony Rizzo (1B)
3. (R) Javier Báez (SS)
4. (L) Kyle Schwarber (LF)
5. (R) Willson Contreras (C)
6. (L) Jason Heyward (RF)
7. (R) David Bote
8. Pitcher
9. (S) Ian Happ (CF)

Former Cubs manager Joe Maddon liked to alternate lefties and righties in his lineup. With MLB’s new three-batter minimum rule for relievers, I stuck to that mentality to create a late-inning advantage for the Cubs.

Schwarber-Báez-Rizzo looks lethal and is somewhat interchangeable. Rizzo recently said he prefers hitting third or fourth but will hit where Ross wants him. Ross suggested Wednesday Rizzo will hit behind Bryant; it looks unorthodox but Ross can always adjust it. 

Rizzo has fared well hitting second and hitting him there keeps him and Bryant back-to-back.

Rizzo hitting second (237 plate appearances): .300/.401/.515, 153 wRC+.

I like Báez getting RBI chances behind Bryzzo, the Cubs’ two best on-base guys. And, he mashes in the three hole:

Báez career hitting third (118 plate appearances): .366/.398/.571, 161 wRC+ 

Similarly, Schwarber has been more successful hitting cleanup than any other spot:

Schwarber career hitting fourth (68 plate appearances): .393/.441/.787, 211 wRC+

Those aren't the biggest sample sizes, but the numbers are eye-popping. Contreras and Heyward hitting fifth and sixth brings us back to a more traditional Cubs lineup. The second base competition is wide-open, but I'll give Bote a slight edge after he hit .274 with a .425 OBP post-All-Star break last season.

Bote will also play some third, which is when we'll see Daniel Descalso and Jason Kipnis (if he makes the roster) at second.

RELATED: Cubs roster projection 1.0: Bullpen, second base competitions are wide open

From there, I like a pitcher hitting eighth and Happ hitting ninth as a second leadoff guy. He has a good eye for the strike zone and his ability to get on base will give the top of the order more RBI chances.

Now, for the lineup against lefty starting pitchers:

1. (R) Kris Bryant (3B)
2. (L) Anthony Rizzo (1B)
3. (R) Javier Báez (SS)
4. (L) Kyle Schwarber (LF)
5. (R) Willson Contreras (C)
6. (L) Jason Heyward OR (R) Steven Souza Jr. (RF)
7. (R) Albert Almora Jr. (CF)
8. Pitcher
9. (R) David Bote (2B)

Ross believes in a structured lineup, so this looks pretty similar to the previous order. Heyward isn’t going to sit against every lefty starter, but when he does Souza’s power bat will fit in nicely in the sixth spot.

In this scenario, Hoerner is in Triple-A and Bote is the starting second baseman against lefties. Where Bote hits is contingent on Almora. I’d put Bote ninth when Almora is in the lineup because the former is more of an on-base threat. Almora’s contact-oriented approach could help move ahead any baserunners ahead of him. The same can be said about Bote, but I like the idea of him getting on base for the top of the order.

Happ, a switch-hitter, will also start against righties and I can see him hitting sixth, seventh or ninth. A lot of this hinges on how he, Almora and Bote are performing at the plate. Each will get their at-bats, but the Cubs need one to emerge as a consistent contributor.

Do these groupings look unfamiliar? Sure, but Bryant leading off will put us in new waters. Again, nothing is set in stone, and the Cubs have a ton of lineup combinations for this season. Seeing Bryant atop the order sure looks like an enticing possibility, however.

Kris Bryant to get a shot as Cubs leadoff hitter

Kris Bryant to get a shot as Cubs leadoff hitter

The leadoff spot has been in flux for the Cubs since Dexter Fowler left after the 2016 season. A new chapter in that role could soon be coming.

According to multiple reports, Kris Bryant talked about leading off for the Cubs in a meeting with new manager David Ross and it sounds like he will get a chance to do just that.


The Cubs have been creative with the leadoff spot without the lack of a traditional leadoff hitter on the roster. Anthony Rizzo even has 57 games in the leadoff spot in his career.

Bryant has had seven starts at the top of the order. He hit .321/.387/.464 in those games.


The Cubs' own Twitter account has made it semi-official by poking fun at Bryant as a leadoff hitter.


What this would do to the rest of the Cubs' lineup is going to be interesting. Bryant primarily batted second or third last year. Putting him at leadoff could separate him from Rizzo and Javy Baez in the middle of the lineup. Ross could also continue to change things up and put Baez or Rizzo second to keep the team's best three hitters back-to-back-to-back in the order.

Ross hasn't even managed a spring training game yet, but this could be his first big change. With the first spring training game coming up on Saturday, we should get a clue as to how Ross plans to send the team out. Suddenly the batting order is something to keep an eye on.

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