The offseason is obviously in its earliest stages, but the Chicago Cubs look like they’re intent on shedding payroll heading into the 2020 campaign.
It’s too soon to know for sure, but the Chicago Cubs look like they’re putting a lot of emphasis on the luxury tax threshold this offseason. Team owner and chairman Tom Ricketts made as much clear in recent interviews and the team’s decision to let right-hander Kendall Graveman walk over the matter of $3 million adds to speculation that the team is more focused on payroll than ever.
The 28-year-old spent most of 2019 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and he made just a handful of appearances late in the year. But given the age of Chicago’s rotation and the inconsistency we saw from guys like Jon Lester and Jose Quintana last season, it’s hard to rationalize letting someone like Graveman walk.
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Depth is key – and that’s exactly what the Cubs have opted to pass on in Graveman, who had minor league options remaining and would have come with an additional year of control had the team picked up their option for 2020.
Now, assuming the team doesn’t offer Cole Hamels a qualifying offer (which seems likely given his second-half performance), that leaves Adbert Alzolay, Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills as potential fifth starters.
That’s not a bad mix by any means – and for all we know, Chicago will go out and add a starter via trade or free agency. But I just don’t get dropping a depth piece, especially at such a palatable cost. The only reasoning that would make sense is that the team doesn’t have a lot of faith in his ability to contribute in 2020 for one reason or another.
Assuming the Cubs are focused on shedding payroll, I suspect we’ll see some other moves in the next month or so ahead of the non-tender deadline. Most notably, I can’t see the Cubs tendering Addison Russell a contract – and Albert Almora is on thin ice in my eyes, as well. Dropping these guys would save the team just under $7 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projections.
It looks like the Cubs have more money to play with this winter than last. But that’s not saying much. If Ricketts is indeed insistent the team minimize the luxury tax payments he makes, Theo Epstein will have to get creative – and he’ll have to start having more success on the free agent market.
Last winter, the team brought in Daniel Descalso to provide some veteran leadership. Despite his oft-praised clubhouse presence, the veteran was basically a waste of a roster spot for most of the season. Of course, Chatwood and Yu Darvish whiffed in year one of their respective deals before rebounding in 2019.
We don’t know what this offseason will hold, but it seems safe to say the Chicago Cubs aren’t going to be introducing Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon or Gerrit Cole at Gallagher Way if these early trends continue throughout the winter.