Could increased attendance cap turn the Chicago Cubs into buyers?
By Jake Misener
After going 11-15 in the season’s first month, the Chicago Cubs looked like they were primed for a mid-season fire sale. But after running off five straight wins and a 17-7 record in the month of May, the narrative has shifted dramatically at the Friendly Confines.
Paired with increased fan attendance limits, which now allows 60 percent capacity at Wrigley Field, all this could mean the Cubs will go from sellers to buyers, especially given the state of the National League Central – which looks like a very winnable division, to say the least.
Chicago enters Saturday’s action one-half game behind the Cardinals in the division, while boasting the fourth-best run differential in the National League. The bullpen is on a historic scoreless innings streak and several key players, namely Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel, are leading the charge.
All this to say that, even after trading the NL Cy Young runner-up last winter, Jed Hoyer told the Chicago Sun-Times this week that if the team keeps winning, there’s a potential for in-season acquisitions, something that seemed highly unlikely when the year started.
"“As far as flexibility, we’ve had these projections for a little bit and feel like we’re a bit ahead of schedule,” Hoyer said. “There’s definitely flexibility to make moves in-season if the right thing presents itself.”"
Ownership has tied the revenue of the Chicago Cubs to game day experiences
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The Ricketts family put all their eggs in one basket when it came to turning the Cubs into a money-printing machine. Prior to the pandemic, win or lose, good or bad, folks were going to fill Wrigley Field. They knew that when they pumped hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money into the 1060 Project, a massive renovation effort of the ballpark and the surrounding area.
They feverishly bought up properties and land in Wrigleyville, developing restaurants, Hotel Zachary and luxury condos – while also gaining a stranglehold over the rooftops, as well. Again, these are all major revenue streams that are completely reliant on the tens of thousands of fans you expect on game day each season.
Without any of those avenues generating money over the last year, ownership started slashing – both in baseball operations and throughout other parts of the organization. Again, the Darvish trade was undoubtedly driven by a desire to cut the team’s payroll, as was the club’s inability or unwillingness to bring back Jon Lester.
But now, with the city-mandated attendance cap jumping from 25 to 60 percent this weekend, with a full reopening possible as soon as early July, the tap will be turned back on and the financial outlook for the team will look drastically different sooner than I think most people expected back when spring training opened up in February.
So if the Chicago Cubs keep winning playing spoiler and continue to win, there just might be a chance the front office backs them and gives them what they need to make one last run this fall.