Chicago Cubs: Are there payroll-cutting moves to come?
It is true – the Cubs might be able to find a few creative ways to reduce payroll. The Smyly trade showed us the front office is capable of that. However, the easiest ways to reduce player salary commitments for next season are, unfortunately, also the most unlikely.
Tyler Chatwood is guaranteed $12.5 million next season. Jason Heyward is guaranteed $20 million in 2019. I don’t see any teams taking on the full weight of their contracts. So the Cubs would have to pay at least part of their salaries (probably most of their salaries) for them to play for another team in any potential trade.
Paying a player to play against you is usually less about saving money and more about getting him off your roster. If a team agrees to pay any portion of a player’s salary, that money counts against the team’s luxury tax number.
Chatwood still has electric stuff. He only has two years left on his contract. This last season was Chatwood’s first poor season where his walk rate skyrocketed. So he is a good candidate to have a bounce-back season. Perhaps a team can be convinced the right-hander has enough upside to take a chance on him. But he will either need to be packaged together with other enticing assets or the Cubs will have to agree to pay the majority of his contract.
Heyward did not opt out of his contract. His contract has a limited no-trade clause that enables him to block trades to 12 teams for the next two years. After the 2020 season, Heyward will become a 10-5 player (at least 10 years in the majors and at least five years with the same team).
The collective bargaining agreement grants all such players full no-trade rights. So trading Heyward is somewhere between difficult to nearly impossible. And, again, it remains highly unlikely that the Cubs would get much if any salary relief in a trade of Heyward.