Cubs president of business ops Crane Kenney talks 2024, streaming and Craig Counsell

Kenney shed light on ownership's approach to spending, RSN troubles across the league and much more in a radio appearance this week.

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs
Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

Crane Kenney, the long-tenured Chicago Cubs president of business operations, made an appearance on the Mully and Haugh Show earlier this week and spoke on a wide range of topics ahead of the team's home opener at Wrigley Field against the Colorado Rockies.

Of course, when whether or not the team was closer to competing than it was a year ago, to the surprise of no one, Kenney expressed a high level of optimism in the club, singling out guys like Michael Busch, Shota Imanaga and Christopher Morel as guys who could really positively impact the 2024 Cubs.

Cubs are feeling optimistic heading into 2024 for a variety of reasons

Another reason for a renewed sense of optimism, not only within the Cubs' rank-and-file but also the fanbase? The hiring of manager Craig Counsell who, according to Kenney, has become an integral partner not only with the baseball ops team, but the business operations brass, as well.

"We got some time in spring training to talk about things we could do a little better on the business side to help support those guys and he had a list and some ideas which was a really great back-and-forth," he said.

Kenney mentioned a specific instance of Counsell having very strong feelings about the new state-of-the-art hitting and pitching lab the team is building in Arizona as an example of him weighing in on matters that fall far outside of what managers typically focus on. He also expressed the sentiment that's been shared ad nauseum since Counsell came aboard, saying he's thankful the former big leaguer is in the home dugout at Wrigley now, rather than the visitor's.

"I think everyone has a sense of optimism. I think it started with Craig Counsell coming onboard. He's clearly one of the best managers in baseball. We had to deal with him from the other side of the line all these years and he just seemed to find a way."

You can't overstate the role Kenney has played within the organization, especially in the 15 years the Ricketts family has owned the Cubs. His headlining accomplishment, the 1060 Project, now complete, he continues to work closely with Jed Hoyer and the baseball ops crew to help the team be competitive and informed heading into the offseason.

Cubs still seem focused on 'smart' spending more than anything else

This past winter, Kenney was able to eliminate roughly one-third of the league from the prospective Cody Bellinger sweepstakes based on financials at his disposal, which allowed Hoyer to have a grasp on what the landscape looked like for the reigning NL Comeback Player of the Year's services. Declining media revenues across the league played a major factor in the slower-than-anticipated free-agent period.

When asked specifically about Jordan Montgomery, the last high-profile free agent to sign a deal (and one that came in well below expectations, at that), Kenney said that such an addition 'was not in the budget,' despite the Cubs' total baseball investment reportedly being the highest in franchise history in 2024, even outpacing the years following the team's 2016 World Series championship.

Now that doesn't mean just payroll. It includes facilities, salaries, staff, scouting - and the manager's salary, which is a cool $8 million, a record for an MLB skipper. Still, he noted that if the Cubs are competitive at the deadline, they'll 'probably exceed' that first CBT threshold with some acquisitions. That's an encouraging thing to hear, especially with Chicago playing in a very winnable division.