After this week’s non-tender deadline, here’s where the Cubs payroll stands.
The roster transformation is underway at the Friendly Confines. The Chicago Cubs non-tendered four players this week, including 2016 standouts Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora. That move helped Jed Hoyer shave off a decent chunk of payroll as he works to take the team in a new direction.
We know that, like other teams, the Cubs suffered major financial losses this year without fans in attendance. Owner Tom Ricketts has repeatedly re-emphasized that roughly 70 percent of the team’s revenue streams are, in one way or another, tied to gameday – and 40,000 fans in the seats at Wrigley Field.
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Without that critical revenue, Chicago will undoubtedly enter 2021 with a smaller payroll. Non-tendering Schwarber saved the club somewhere in the $8-10 million range as he was due a raise in his final trip through arbitration. The big chip left on the payroll is Kris Bryant, who has been at the heart of several trade rumors already this season.
That’s hardly a surprise. The former Rookie of the Year and MVP is due a projected $18.6 million next season. Finding a taker for that contract would go a long way toward getting the Cubs’ payroll closer to a more palatable number for ownership. But, as we noted, such a trade is yet to come to fruition. Without it, where does the payroll stand?
According to MLB.com, Chicago has $94 million committed to nine players. That doesn’t take arbitration-eligible players (Bryant, Baez, Contreras, Happ, Caratini) into account, either. Those five will add another $40 million to the ledger. When it’s all said and done and you factor in other player salaries and buyout costs, you’re talking about just over $146 million, according to Spotrac.
Now, it’s highly unlikely that winds up being the final number. Again, trading Bryant drops that figure by nearly $19 million alone. That doesn’t even take into account any potential trade of a guy like Javier Baez or Willson Contreras, who are projected to make $11 and $6.2 million, respectively.
While we may not know where payroll will wind up, you can all but guarantee it won’t cross over even the lowest tier of the luxury tax threshold. Chicago has failed to get under that number in each of the previous two seasons and desperately needs to re-set the penalties associated with exceeding the luxury tax.
This year, the Cubs ranked third in MLB with a payroll of $86.6 million. Of course, that’s the prorated number that came with the shortened 60-game season. In 2019, the team spent just over $221 million and in 2018, the North Siders checked in at $194.3 million. In short, we’re looking at a step back from being one of the leading spenders, at least for 2021, as Hoyer looks to set the organization up to take that step into the next era of Cubs baseball.