Another day, another edition of Cubs Corner. Obviously not much is going to happen in the way of transactions over the weekend, at least not so far as the Cubs are concerned. They aren’t fishing for those big-name free agents, and unless someone calls Tom Ricketts at home on a Sunday morning, I wouldn’t be looking for any trades (yes, you can now wipe the sweat from your brow). Next week could be another story.
Let’s start this edition of Cubs Corner with another memorable moment – this one from 2018. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, two outs, and the Cubs trailing the Nationals by a score of 3-0, David Bote stepped to the plate. With the count at 2-2 and the Cubs down to their last strike, Bote took the next pitch and delivered it deep over the centerfield wall, giving the Cubs the 4-3 win on a walk-off grand slam.
Cubs Corner: The Cubs Financial Situation
Tom Ricketts made it very clear that he wanted to avoid the luxury tax in 2021, and he’s done a pretty damn good job of it, as he and Jed Hoyer are slashing salaries from the books left and right. In 2021 the luxury tax threshold is set at $210 million, something the Cubs are tens of millions away from at this point.
Not counting pre-arbitration salaries for Adbert Alzolay and others, the Cubs 2021 payroll currently sits at a relatively low $136,390,000.00 Once you factor in the estimated minor league salaries, player benefits, and so on (which all count toward the luxury tax ceiling), the Cubs are sitting right around $163,505,000.00, leaving Ricketts approximately $46,495,000.00 to work with before he bumps the ceiling.
As it stands now, they’ve found relatively cheap options to plug holes left by the non-tendered players, departing free agents, and players who’ve been traded as part of their salary dump. The question is, can a guy like Austine Romine function as a suitable replacement for Victor Caratini? Do you really think that Trevor Williams and Zach Davies can replace (take your pick here) Tyler Chatwood, Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, or Jose Quintana?
In one breath Ricketts was dealing, non-tendering, and DFA’ing players like he was having a fire sale, then in the next breath he offers Hoyer more money to work with, as he felt the division was winnable for Chicago. Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m Tom Ricketts and I view the NL Central as winnable, I’m not dealing a 2020 Cy Young candidate (Darvish) along with a promising young catcher (Caratini), especially while considering the possibility of shipping Willson Contreras off.
Cubs Corner: Rumor Has it…
While I’m the first to admit that I’m no Ken Rosenthal, I do have some inside sources, all of whom say that the objective for the Cubs going forward is simple: Sign a team-friendly extension or be gone. As the core group from the Joe Maddon era continues to approach free agency, extension talks with players like Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras have all fallen flat.
Last winter, the Cubs’ entire mission was focused on reaching an extension with Javier Baez, but as talks stalled and COVID-19 hit, talk of an extension was quietly pushed aside while the pandemic took center stage. Baez had commented that he was hoping to reach an extension deal, but if it didn’t work out, he was prepared to move on.
One of my writers remarked last night that there weren’t 30 MLB teams, instead only two: The owners and the players. Truer words could not have been spoken, and the Cubs’ core finds themselves in the crux of that statement.
This team should have seen at least a pair of World Series appearances, but instead, they were a one and done, fading and falling short since the end of 2016. Props to David Ross for getting them the NL Central title last year, but what good did it do? Miami made quick work of Chicago in the Wild Card round, and the postseason was over much too soon… again.
Ross will really have his work cut out for him this season, as he cuts and pastes together a team full of unfamiliar faces, rookies, and prospects.
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main image credit Embed from Getty Images