As of early Tuesday afternoon, the $38 million contract Tyler Chatwood signed with the Cubs last week still stood as the largest of the offseason. And while that is sure to change very quickly, a unique clause in the pact probably makes it the most controversial.
On the surface, the $12.67 million AAV deal doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Chatwood will earn $12.5 million in each of the first two seasons and $13 million in the third, but it’s what his performance in those first two seasons can mean for the last that has drawn the ire of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
You see, there’s an escalator in the contract that would raise Chatwood’s 2020 base salary to $15 million if he receives at least one Cy Young vote in either ’18 or ’19. And guess what happens if he receives a vote in each of those years? Yep, the salary jumps again, to $17 million.
This is the first time such a clause has been used since the Red Sox built something similar into Curt Schilling’s contract in 2007. Wait, wasn’t Theo Epstein the GM in Boston at that time? Why yes, yes he was. The BBWAA initially banned Schilling from Cy Young voting, but a subsequent fuss from the players union got the ban lifted.
Though nothing was ever placed in writing, a tacit agreement dubbed the “Schilling precedent” has held that such language would not be used in future contracts. But why, you might ask?
Simple, the BBWAA wants to avoid the potential for a conflict of interest in their voting process. You know, because the criteria being applied to said process is so revered. Okay, sorry, I’m taking my disdain for the Hall of Fame voting a little too far, as the postseason awards setup is quite a bit different.
Rather than have every member cast a vote, two BBWAA writers from each MLB city are recommended by the local chapter chairman to vote for each award. That makes 30 writers for each award, with those from NL cities voting for NL awards and AL cities for AL awards. Make sense? Good.
The votes are made public each year, so it’d be pretty easy to see if something hinky went down. But what if Chatwood has a solid season and finishes pretty strong for a successful Cubs team. Perhaps he’s developed a really good rapport with Gordon Wittenmyer or Sahadev Sharma or even, shocker of all shockers, supplanted Tommy La Stella as Jesse Rogers’ man-crush?
It might not matter to Sharma, whose riches from The Athletic allow him to roll down Clark in a Mercedes Maybach, but most of these writers aren’t filthy stinking rich. So you think it might mean a little something to them if their new favorite Cubs starter pulled them aside and offered a few stacks of high society to cast their vote his way?
As thin as the prospect admittedly is on all levels, the BBWAA voted Tuesday to meet with officials from MLB and the union to further research whether to ban Chatwood from Cy Young voting if the language in his contract isn’t amended or removed.