How can the mid-market Cubs spend money like their big-market counterparts in the Yankees, Dodgers, or Red Sox? Well for starters if you’re the Cubs you’ve been compiling high draft picks for several years now that are under team control for the foreseeable future. The Cubs had the ability to spend like drunken sailors this winter for several reasons; one of which had to do with the renovations to Wrigley, the other a successful season in 2015, and lastly because of the staggering of contracts and return on investment of the high draft picks now coming to fruition. The successful 2015 campaign allowed for the Cubs ownership to raise prices across the board in anticipation of a repeat trip to the postseason and potentially a divisional crown for the first time since 2008. The Cubs raised ticket prices in the offseason alone an average of 10%-38%
The Cubs currently have seven players that will be playing in their second full season in MLB. All seven players are expected to be significant contributors to the team’s success this summer. The most notable players are: Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Kyle Hendricks, Javier Baez, and Tommy LaStella who are all making less than a million dollars in 2016. The other boon for the Cubs is that when the younger players are all coming up for free agency, most of the contracts signed in the past two offseason will be off the books. Lester, Zobrist, Lackey and potentially Hayward will all be off the books before the likes of Bryant, Schwarber, Rizzo, or Russell are free agents after the 2022 season. 2022 will be a big winter for the Cubs, but that’s seven years away and no one need think that far ahead. The spacing out of the contracts will most assuredly result in the Cubs keeping their young core together for the next ten season at least.
Jason Hayward’s contract is an eight year deal, but there’s a player opt-out clause after three seasons. The Cubs as it stand have no bad contracts on their team from an outsiders perspective. Couple that with the ability to have a bunch of starters on the field who’re making league minimum puts the Cubs in the position as a heavy favorite to not only win the National League Pennant, but their first World Series in over 108 years.
It may not have been pretty when the Cubs were signing Alfonso Soriano to a ridiculous contract that hamstrung the team for years, but with Theo in charge since 2011 the Cubs have turned their roster completely over with cost certainty in mind. The Cubs should have the ability to spend money over the next several seasons while not having to give out any lucrative contracts to their young core. The Cubs plan has been to acquire talent and keep it under team control. Chicago has exactly that while potentially being the best team in baseball already. Having many of your best players just scratching the surface to their careers and their ceilings is exactly what Theo had envisioned when he took over. Seeing a full cupboard of prospects now contributing at a major league level makes the job a lot easier, and that’s why Theo despite not receiving the awards annually is widely considered as the best GM in baseball, having been so since he took over the Red Sox 15 years ago.