The union would like the Chicago Cubs to spend more money on players

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A few years ago the MLBPA, the league and the Marlins entered into an agreement in which the Marlins agreed to spend more money on players rather than cut things to the bone in order to rebuild. The leverage the union had in forcing the Marlins’ hand on this was Article XXIV(B)(5)(a) of the Basic Agreement, which commits teams to spending revenue sharing money “to improve its performance on the field.” The Marlins weren’t doing that, thus the agreement to spend more.

The Cubs aren’t in the same boat. They are a high revenue team which pays into the revenue sharing system, not one that draws from it. Still, they have a low payroll — on Opening Day they were 23rd out of 30, coming just under $90 million — and the union doesn’t like it when there are low payrolls, especially on teams that make a lot of dough. So, despite not having Article XXIV(B)(5)(a) at its disposal, the union is still pressuring anyway:

Whether the most powerful players union in American sports can do anything about the high-revenue team’s years-long trend of spending cuts and roster purges is tricky. It might depend in part on how much longer it lasts and if the union can find grounds for action in Major League Baseball’s debt-ratio rules for clubs.

The debt-ratio rule benefits players, of course, in that if a team is severely in debt and using all of its revenues to service it, they won’t be spending on players. As of now, Major League Baseball says that the Cubs aren’t in violation of debt-ratio rules. It is widely thought by outside observers, however, that the Cubs have to be in violation given that ownership took on $670 million in debt to buy the team. My guess is that the union is nudging at this apparent discrepancy and cautiously trying to get MLB to nudge the Cubs into spending more to avoid the sort of scrutiny into owner finances that owners really, really hate.

As of now, the Cubs kinda stink. They stink for a lot of reasons, and a rebuild is always going to require some payroll cutting. But I don’t think anyone has all the answers on whether the best way to rebuild is to burn-it-to-the-ground first and then add veterans or whether spending on MLB talent can or should go hand-in-hand with the sort of young talent development the Astros and Cubs are pursuing.

This article should be read a the MLBPA weighing in on that subject.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.

Report: Rangers agree to six-year extension with Rougned Odor

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The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.

It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.