Why Wisdom belongs on poster for new MLB labor deal


MESA, Ariz. — If baseball has a poster boy for its innovative new system for rewarding high-performance young players, it might actually be a 30-year-old Cub.

That’s because young in this case means not enough service time to leverage arbitration or free agency. And that means the new bonus-pool system in baseball’s newly ratified collective bargaining agreement is built for Patrick Wisdom.

“If they want to put me on the poster for that, I’ll be happy for that,” said Wisdom, who as a rookie last year broke Kris Bryant’s franchise rookie record for homers (28) and finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year voting.

“If they want to use me as an example, then by all means go for it,” he said Thursday during a conversation with NBC Sports Chicago. “I just want to go out there and play my game. I’m going to let the business people take care of the business and the accounting stuff. It’s going to directly affect me. And I think at the end of the day it’ll all work out.”

Wisdom, a former first-round draft pick of the Cardinals who played 43 big-league games across three seasons before last year, said he mostly appreciates the gains for his end of the service-time spectrum because of what it might mean for young players who come after him — especially if it becomes a building block for a stronger system for young players to earn closer to their value.

Until then, it gives late bloomers such as him and 29-year-old teammate Frank Schwindel an opportunity for performance-based earnings that likely would have been elusive at best under the previous system.

Wisdom made the major-league minimum salary last year: $570,500. Actually, he made closer to $420,000 because he didn’t join the Cubs’ big-league roster until late May.

He’ll get a hefty percentage raise regardless of any bonus-worthy performance this year because the minimum was raised to $700,000 for 2022 in the new CBA.

And although all the qualifications for earning a share of the $50 million total in MLB’s bonus pool weren’t immediately clear Thursday, high finishes in voting for major awards such as MVPs and Cy Youngs are part of the equation.

And if WAR is part of it, consider that by most analyses of WAR value as a function of salary, Wisdom’s 2.2 WAR season last year was worth closer to $10 million than the 4 percent of that total he actually made.

That’s especially important for a player such as Wisdom, who will be at least 32 when he reaches arbitration eligibility, at least 35 when he reaches the six years required to leverage free agency.

“I think it’s important,” he said of getting productive players paid more equitably earlier in their big-league careers. “The reps in the union think it’s important, so I’m all aboard, too. That includes me. That’s my class year of players, service time. It’ll directly affect me.

“I want what’s best for players down the road, honestly. So if we can establish that foundation, then I’m all for it.”

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