Cubs: Would newfound money have saved Kyle Schwarber or Jon Lester?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

There’s something kind of funny about a guy worth billions suddenly finding some extra change in the couch cushions. Then again, maybe he had been holding some Gamestop stock and was able to cash out and stick it to new Mets owner and fellow billionare Steve Cohen. Thing is, I still don’t think I’m laughing given all the club has done (or not done) this winter.

If you’ve been following the Cubs offseason, in the midst of a morose and at times depressing unloading of talent, it no doubt took you by surprise when the Cubs signed a notable free agent. I’m not talking about someone like Daniel Descalso here, but a real bonafide starter who cost more than a couple million dollars. Heck, it’s the biggest position player acquisition for the Cubs since Jason Heyward in 2016. And, that surprise signing of Joc Pederson was only made available thanks to an influx of cash authorized by none other than Tom Ricketts.

Here’s the thing though: quite frankly, it’s hard to know what “Ricketts has recently increased player payroll” actually means.

What are the motives behind the sudden increase in Cubs payroll?

I mean, I’d be happy about that phrase in a vacuum or bottle, but given what’s transpired so far this offseason, it actually was more confusing and stupefying than anything. It also served to engender feelings of frustration and anger amongst fans due to the fact that the Cubs traded away their ace and let their very own homegrown postseason hero leftfielder go for nothing. That’s not even getting into the fact they didn’t even offer a contract to the team’s best free agent signing ever, Jon Lester.

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Sure, maybe you could defend the Pederson-Kyle Schwarber swaperoo. Pederson is faster, a slightly better defender and could even play center field in a pinch. That being said, he’s basically the same profile bat as the guy the Cubs  just let go for nothing.

Inevitably, this begs the question, “was the club just attempting to save money, or were they making moves in an attempt to make themselves more competitive- either in the short or long term.” Was Jed Hoyer told to get his salary number under a threshold, thus making it necessary to trade Darvish and Victor Caratini, non-tender Schwarber and ignore Jon Lester as he tried to retire as a Cub?

It also begs the question, “Would Hoyer have done things differently the past month or so if Ricketts had given him the green light on this salary increase in December?”

This might be a move to please Cubs fans

I’m not about to put on my tin foil hat and lay down any conspiracy theories about the timing of this countermanding, but this pivot from Ricketts (or complete reversal from what we’d seen so far) seems a bit peculiar.  I’m sure the front office is happy enough to have some money to spend and not be forced to dump players and salaries expediently… but… I can’t help but feel some of this is about superficially placating fans and trying to put up the facade that they’re not completely tanking 2021.

Someone should ask Hoyer the question, “Would you have non-tendered Schwarber regardless of the financial situation? I’m pretty sure we know the answer and I’d bet it’s the same one to answer “Would you still have traded Yu Darvish and Caratini for a few teenagers and Zach Davies?”

Next. Comparing Joc Pederson and Kyle Schwarber. dark

I don’t know that you’d get any kind of legitimate or honest answer, but until that happens, these types of questions will persist and maybe even eat away at a large percentage of the fanbase who is viewing this week’s about-face as sketchy and bizarre at best.