MLB Contracts

Tendering Contracts to Unsigned Players on MLB Reserve List

If an unsigned player on an MLB Reserve List is not tendered a contract by 8 PM (Eastern) on December 2nd (or December 1st if December 2nd falls on a Saturday, or November 30th if December 2nd falls on a Sunday), the player is said to be "Non-Tendered," he is immediately removed from his club's MLB 40-man roster, and he becomes an unrestricted free-agent, free to sign a major league or minor league contract with any club, including the club that non-tendered the player.

A "Non-Tendered" player receives no termination pay, and the player's former club receives no compensation if the player subsequently signs with another club.

Unlike players who receive an outright release, a player who is not tendered a contract is not placed on waivers prior to becoming a free-agent.  

Each unsigned player on an MLB 40-man roster who is tendered a contract must be offered at least the MLB minimum salary ($563,500 in 2020) and (with a couple of exceptions) at least 80% of the player's previous season's salary, and at least 70% of the player's salary from two seasons back.

Some players have a "minor league split" salary in their contract which they are paid if they are sent to the minors. In most cases, a player's minor league "split" salary must be at least 50% of the player's salary (as was actually paid to the player) from the previous season. The one exception is if a free-agent signs a major league contract with a minor league "split" salary, the "50% rule" does not apply. 

The minor league "split" minimum salary is $91,800 in 2020, and the minor league "split" minimum salary for players who are on an MLB Reserve List for the first time is $46,000 in 2020. 

A club whose payroll from the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold will pay a 20% tax on the portion of the payroll that exceeded the CBT threshold, a club whose payroll from both the just-concluded MLB season as well as from the MLB season immediately prior to the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the CBT threshold will pay a 30% tax on the portion of the payroll from the just-concluded MLB season that exceeded the CBT threshold, and a club whose payroll from the just-concluded MLB season as well as from the two MLB seasons immediately prior to the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the CBT threshold will pay a 50% tax on the portion of the payroll from the just-concluded MLB season that exceeded the CBT threshold.

A club whose payroll from the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the CBT threshold by more than $20M will pay an additional surcharge of 12% on the portion of the club's payroll in excess of $20M over the threshold, and a club whose payroll from the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the CBT threshold by more than $40M will pay an additional surcharge of 42% on the portion of the payroll in excess of $40M over the threshold.
NOTE: The surcharge for a club whose payroll from the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the CBT threshold by more than $40M will be 45% on the portion of the payroll in excess of $40M over the CBT threshold if the club paid a CBT tax in the both the just-concluded MLB season as well as in the MLB season immediately prior to the just-concluded MLB season.

Performance-Incentive Bonuses

Performance-incentive bonuses are permitted in Major League contracts, but a bonus cannot be based on batting or pitching skill, or where the club finishes in the standings.

A performance-incentive bonus can, however, be tied to days spent on an MLB Active List during the MLB regular season, and/or Games Played, Games Started, Games Finished, and/or Innings Pitched for pitchers, or Games Played, Games Started, and/or Plate Appearances for position players. Awards such as MVP, Cy Young, Silver Slugger, and/or Gold Glove, and/or being named to an All-Star team, can also be tied to an incentive bonus.

Arbitration-Eligible Players

An unsigned player under club control who has accrued at least three but less than six years of MLB Service Time is automatically eligible for salary arbitration.

Also, any unsigned player with at least two years but less than three years of MLB Service Time who accrued at least 86 days of MLB Service Time during the previous season can qualify for salary arbitration as a so-called "Super Two" if the player is among the top 22% in MLB Service Time of players in that group (rounded to the nearest whole number). And if  two or more players are tied with the same MLB Service Time just above the "Super Two" threshold, all of the players with that accrued MLB ST would get "Super Two" status even if that means the number of players with "Super Two" status exceeds 22%.   
NOTE: The "Super Two" threshold post-2019 is two years plus 115 days of MLB Service Time (or 2+115). Because it is based on a percentage, the "Super Two" threshold fluctuates from year-to-year (it was 2+134 MLB ST post-2018, 2+123 post-2017, 2+131 post-2016, 2+130 post-2015, 2+133 post-2014, 2+122 post-2013, 2+140 post-2012, 2+145 post-2011, 2+122 in 2010, and 2+139 in 2009), but the threshold has generally gone down whenever a new CBA is signed, because the percentage of players who automatically qualify for "Super Two" status has increased with each new CBA.
CoViD-19 EXCEPTION: Any unsigned player with at least two years but less than three years of MLB Service Time who accrued at least 31 days of MLB Service Time during the 2020 MLB regular season can qualify for salary arbitration as a so-called "Super Two" if the player is among the top 22% in MLB Service Time of players in that group (rounded to the nearest whole number). 

Besides gaining the right to request salary arbitration and have that right four times instead of just three times, being a "Super Two" player also means the player can elect free-agency if outrighted even though he has not yet accrued three years of MLB Service Time and even if he has not been outrighted previously in his career (however, unlike a player who has accrued at least three years of MLB Service Time and/or has been outrighted previously in his career and who therefore has the option to elect free-agency immediately or else defer the choice until after the conclusion of the MLB regular season, a "Super Two ' player who has not been outrighted previously in his career must make his choice immediately upon being outrighted). 

CUBS SALARY ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE PLAYERS POST-2020: (last updated 9-29-2020)
Albert Almora, OF 
Javier Baez, INF 
Rex Brothers, LHP 
Kris Bryant, INF 
Victor Caratini, C 
Willson Contreras, C 
Ian Happ, OF-INF
Jose Martinez, 1B-OF 
Colin Rea, RHP 
Kyle Ryan, LHP 
Kyle Schwarber, OF 
Ryan Tepera, RHP 
Dan Winkler, RHP 

If a club and a player eligible for salary arbitration cannot agree on a contract, the player can request the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) to file for salary arbitration. The MLBPA is responsible for delivering all requests for salary arbitration to the MLB Labor Relations Department (MLB LRD) on the Tuesday immediately prior to the Friday that falls during the week January 10-16. Once salary arbitration has been requested, the player submits his desired salary to the MLBPA, the club submits its salary offer to the MLB LRD, and the MLBPA and MLB LRD exchange the two figures on the Friday that falls during the week January 10-16. The MLBPA and MLB LRD then schedule a hearing with a three-person arbitration panel. Hearings are held on various dates during the first three weeks of February.

The club's offer must be at least the MLB minimum salary, and, in most cases, must be at least 80% of the player's previous year's salary and at least 70% of the player's salary from two seasons back. However, if the player received a raise in excess of 50% by a salary arbitration panel the previous season, a 20% maximum salary reduction from the previous season and a 30% maximum salary reduction from two seasons back does not apply, and the club only has to offer at least the MLB minimum salary.

After arbitration has been requested, the player and the club can continue to negotiate back & forth, and the player can withdraw from the process any time up until the hearing. And in fact this frequently happens, as the player and the club will often agree to just "split the difference" (something the panel cannot do).

If the matter does go to a hearing, the arbitration panel must choose either the club's offer or the player's figure, and win or lose, the player is awarded a standard one-year MLB contract with no "minor league split" salary or incentive/performance bonuses. Also, the contract is not guaranteed, so if the player is released during Spring Training, the club would only owe the player 30 days or 45 days salary as termination pay, depending on when the player is released. (A player on an MLB Reserve List signed to a non-guaranteed contract who is released more than 15 days prior to Opening Day receives 30 days salary as termination pay, a player on an MLB Reserve List signed to a non-guaranteed contract who is released 15 or fewer days prior to Opening Day receives 45 days salary as termination pay, and a player on an MLB Reserve List who is released during the MLB regular season receives 100% of his salary as termination pay). 
NOTE: The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) is very sensitive about salary arbitration, so if a player is awarded a contract by an arbitration panel and then is subsequently released by his club prior to or during Spring Training, the MLBPA will almost always file a grievance on behalf of the player, claiming the player was released for economic reasons only (which is not permitted), and asking that the released player receive 100% of his salary as termination pay. In that situation, a club would have to show (by submitting official Spring Training game stats) that the released player was out-performed in Spring Training games by another player (or players) competing for that roster spot.

Pre-Arbitration (Auto-Renewal) Players

An unsigned player under club control who does not yet qualify for salary arbitration ultimately has to either accept the club's offer or just not play.

A club will negotiate with the player up to a point, but if the player has not signed a contract for the current season by March 1st, the club has the right to unilaterally dictate the player's salary and renew the player's contract from the previous season (albeit for an amount not less than the MLB minimum salary, and not less than 80% of the player's salary from the previous season and not less than 70% of the player's salary from two season's back). 

These players are the ones who have a "minor league split" salary in their contract, which the player is paid if he is sent to the minors. A player's "minor league split" salary must be at least equal to the 2019 MLB "minor league split" minimum salary and must be at least 50% of the player's salary from the previous season.
NOTE: If a free-agent signs a major league contract with a minor league "split" salary, the "50% rule" does not apply.

CUBS PRE-ARBITRATION (AUTO-RENEWAL) PLAYERS POST-2020: (last updated 9-27-2020)
Jason Adam, RHP 
Adbert Alzolay, RHP 
Miguel Amaya, C 
Nico Hoerner, INF  
Dillon Maples, RHP  
Brailyn Marquez, LHP 
Tyson Miller, RHP 
Alec Mills, RHP 
James Norwwod, RHP  
Manuel Rodriguez, RHP 
Justin Steele, LHP 
Duane Underwood Jr, RHP 
Ildemaro Vargas, INF 
Rowan Wick, RHP 
Brad Wieck, LHP 

Competitive Balance Tax

The Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold will be $195M in 2017, $197M in 2018, $206M in 2019, $208M in 2020, and $210M in 2021. 

CALCULATING A CLUB'S COMPETITIVE BALANCE TAX (CBT) LIABILITY

For the purpose of calculating a club's CBT liability, a club's MLB payroll consists of the Average Annual Value (AAV) of player salaries and bonuses earned by players on the club's MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) and MLB 60-day Injured List. 
CoViD-19 EXCEPTION: A club's 2020 MLB payroll is the value of the aggregate contracts prior to salaries being pro-rated due to the truncated season.  

In addition, MLB Player Benefit Costs (PBC) and the AAV of "legacy salaries" paid to players who are no longer on the club's MLB 40-man roster (such as a player who has been released or outrighted to the minors, or who is being paid a deferred salary after becoming a free-agent) are considered to be part of the club's payroll when calculating the CBT.   

FINANCIAL PENALTIES FOR EXCEEDING COMPETITIVE BALANCE TAX

A club whose payroll from the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the CBT threshold will pay a 20% tax on the portion of the payroll that exceeded the CBT threshold, a club whose payroll from both the just-concluded MLB season as well as from the MLB season immediately prior to the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the CBT threshold will pay a 30% tax on the portion of the payroll from the just-concluded MLB season that exceeded the CBT threshold, and a club whose payroll from the just-concluded MLB season as well as from the two MLB seasons immediately prior to the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the CBT threshold will pay a 50% tax on the portion of the payroll from the just-concluded MLB season that exceeded the CBT threshold. 

A club whose payroll from the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the CBT threshold by more than $20M will pay an additional surcharge of 12% on the portion of the club's payroll in excess of $20M over the threshold, and a club whose payroll from the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the CBT threshold by more than $40M will pay an additional surcharge of 42% on the portion of the payroll in excess of $40M over the threshold.
NOTE: The surcharge for a club whose payroll from the just-concluded MLB season exceeded the CBT threshold by more than $40M will be 45% on the portion of the payroll in excess of $40M over the CBT threshold if the club paid a CBT tax in the both the just-concluded MLB season as well as in the MLB season immediately prior to the just-concluded MLB season.