How it all sorts out
The current payroll sits roughly $14 million under the luxury tax threshold. Considering future arbitration settlements for current players, the team could exceed that mark as by 2021 – if not sooner.
That all but rules out a trade for the current $16 million/year Manny Machado. The Cubs could dump payroll in making such a deal, but likely they’d be right up against the threshold at the end.
Teams also must leave space below the threshold in case injury demands they have to go out into free agency or trade for a replacement.
Adding Machado or Harper is unlikely, to say the least. The Cubs need to retain a large portion of their current core. That alone hurts the odds for a big-time addition. Add in the CBA implications and draft pick ties and it makes it go from unlikely to darn-near impossible.