Think Cubs choosing not to spend? That’s ‘misguided,’ says owner #Bryceless
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Chairman Tom Ricketts called the perception that the Cubs aren’t willing to spend enough to go after the likes of Bryce Harper “misguided.”
Making the sports-talk radio rounds Thursday, Ricketts defended budget restrictions by citing an already high payroll and burdens such as revenue sharing and costs associated with a team-owned stadium.
“We like our club. And we’re among the very top spenders. I think that stuff is just kind of misguided,” Ricketts said on the Mully & Haugh show on The Score.
For the first time since the Ricketts family bought the team before the 2010 season, fans won’t get a chance to ask the owners these questions because the annual Saturday ownership panel was scratched from the Cubs Convention schedule because of “low ratings,” Ricketts said.
Why isn’t one of the game’s top revenue-producing teams more aggressive in one of the most dynamic free-agent markets in years — in the middle of a fragile window of championship potential, at a time TV revenue increases are supposedly on the near horizon?
“We have spent money this offseason. Obviously, we re-signed Cole Hamels, and we picked up [Daniel] Descalso,” Ricketts said. “And I’m sure [team president] Theo [Epstein] has a few more moves left in him.”
The Cubs have spent much of the winter playing out the reliever market. Beyond that, forget about the big free-agent bat that could fix what Epstein said “broke” last summer.
Ricketts stressed the quality already on the roster, the 95-win success despite injuries and off-field issues, and an already big payroll ($200 million plus).
“People have to realize, money doesn’t win championships, players do,” Ricketts said during his interview on ESPN-1000.
Manager Joe Maddon: “Everybody’s bemoaning the fact that we have not gone out there and signed anybody, but I like our names. And that’s a big part of why we’re going through the offseason in this manner. We’ve just got to extrapolate more out of the [hitters] that are there, which we shall.”
The Cubs committed $164 million last year to pitchers Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood and got no return in 2018.
Ricketts acknowledged last year’s spending and the anticipated spending on future commitments, including big arbitration raises for core players are factors now.
“Both of those things,” he said. “When you make any free-agent signing — not to pick on Darvish — you know you can’t spend that dollar twice, and you have to budget that into the future. So that’s going to limit what you can do the following year.
“One of the things we knew coming into this offseason was that we weren’t going to have as much flexibility as years past. We didn’t have big contracts coming off. We didn’t have a lot more cash coming in.”
All teams got one-time payments of $50 million last year through the majority-stake sale to ESPN of BAMTech, the league’s digital-media arm. The Cubs’ one-game exit from the playoffs also meant almost no revenue from the postseason.
But Cubs’ revenues — and ticket/merchandise/concession prices — have risen dramatically during the Ricketts’ ownership.
They’re in a window to win big now. They’re in a division with no tankers for the first time in recent history. The top division opponents have added significant quality players this winter.
And this free-agent class is especially equipped to fix what’s “broke.”
“The fact is, we look at our lineup, and you look around the horn and who would you switch out?” Ricketts said. “We’ve got a pretty good team. I think we won 97 games on average the last four years. We’re still that team.”