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Increased capacity at Wrigley Field creates possibility for in-season moves if Cubs keep winning

After the team was in wait-and-see mode to determine its financial situation, the larger crowds could open some doors.

With capacity at Wrigley Field increasing to 60%, the greater revenue could give Cubs president Jed Hoyer greater flexibility to make in-season deals.
With capacity at Wrigley Field increasing to 60%, the greater revenue could give Cubs president Jed Hoyer greater flexibility to make in-season deals.
Sun-Times Media

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs were reeling the last time they left Pittsburgh in April. After dropping two of three games to the bottom-feeder of the National League Central, they appeared to be headed toward some serious changes this summer if things did not improve.

But seven weeks later, not only did the Cubs take care of business with a sweep of the Pirates, but their outlook has started to change as they continue to trend upward.

“These guys kind of found who they are and kind of settled into the season after what went on last year,” manager David Ross said. “We figured some things out, as well. Some things have gotten settled down in the bullpen, and the starters have gotten back to who they are.

“It really is a complete turnaround in -almost every area.”

The Cubs are a half-game behind the Cardinals in the NL Central and despite not being at full strength health-wise, they’re 15-7 in May and have won six of their last seven series.

When the Cubs return home, they’ll be greeted by the largest crowd at Wrigley Field since September 2019 as capacity increases to 60%.

“It’s fun,” team president Jed Hoyer said at PNC Park. “Even with the capacity we’ve had [at 25%], it’s been a huge difference from last year. And I think 60%, there’ll be a ton of buzz in there.”

The increase in capacity means an increase in revenue, and after the team was in wait-and-see mode to determine its financial situation, the larger crowds create some new possibilities.

The Cubs have been viewed as a potential seller since the offseason, and as things sit with the trade season approaching, they might be in position to be a buyer, if their success continues.

“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.”

The Cubs have played their best baseball over the last four weeks and sit a season-high five games above .500 with June a few days away.

And with their recent injuries, the Cubs have some areas of need that they could look to address with an addition.

Last year’s impact on revenues around the game has been well-documented, with few teams doing much in terms of spending. But with most MLB ballparks back to at least 50% capacity, the financial outlook has come as a surprise.

“Everyone in baseball probably is a little bit [surprised],” Hoyer said. “The vaccine rollout probably went a little better than everyone anticipated, and therefore increased capacities are probably moving a little faster than we had anticipated, which is a great thing.

“And so, yeah, it’s fair to say we’re a little bit ahead of schedule with those [financial] projections.”

As things stand, the Cubs are in the thick of things in the NL Central. Each division team has a strength, but each is also flawed, and that might be an added benefit for the Cubs.

There’s no denying their groove. With a few players returning from the injured list in the coming weeks, it’s not unrealistic to see the Cubs pick their lane if they keep playing good baseball.

“We’re playing with an edge,” Ross said. “That comes from confidence. That comes from guys executing in the moment and -coming through. All the areas of importance have picked up.”