MESA, Ariz. — One of the byproducts of baseball’s new labor agreement could leave two significant Cubs opening the season without knowing their salaries.
“It’s different,” Cubs union rep Ian Happ said.
But it’s not new.
Because of the lengthy labor shutdown before MLB and the union reached agreement late last week on a new collective bargaining agreement, the salary-arbitration process has been pushed back — similar to the last labor shutdown that interrupted the offseason and pushed back the start of a season, in 1995.
In this case, arbitration figures will be exchanged between clubs and players by March 22 and any cases that require hearings will be scheduled during the season.
“Yeah, it’s going to be kind of weird to leave the team to go to a hearing,” said catcher Willson Contreras, who is in his final year of arbitration eligibility after making $6.65 million last year. “But let’s see what happens.”
Contreras, whose bigger contract question involves whether he’ll be offered an extension, has never gone to a hearing and doesn’t necessarily anticipate one this time.
Happ, on the other hand, beat the Cubs last winter for his $4.1 million salary in the team’s first hearing since 2018 (Justin Grimm) — the Cubs’ first arbitration loss since Shawon Dunston beat then in 1990.
Happ’s hearing last year was in February.
This is his second year in arbitration.
“It’ll be strange,” he said, “but I think that part of the process last year was similar, where you come into camp having just had the decision announced, and then you walk into the halls the next couple days.”
The big difference is that players can open the season without knowing their salaries, as Hall of Fame pitcher Mike Mussina and others did in 1995.
In that case, a player is to be paid a salary according to the team’s offer until or unless he wins his case, at which point he would gain retroactive pay based on his filed figure.
Arbitrators much decide on either the club’s filed offer or the player’s filed demand after hearing a case.
“You just try and prepare for the season,” Happ said. “But my team and everybody has spent a lot of time preparing for this. That’s what you do to go through the process. It’s part of the game.”