A long, long time ago, way back before the offseason began in earnest, I took a look at the state of the Cubs' baseball spending outlook for 2015.
All right, it was just a month and a half ago. But it sure feels longer ago than that given just how much has transpired.
From the Jon Lester signing to the Miguel Montero trade, the Cubs have made a slew of moves impacting the 40-man roster. As such, it's time for another look at the expenses for this year's club.
Here are the totals for the dead money, draft bonuses, and international amateur bonuses categories as projected in the earlier piece (please refer to the linked article above for additional details):
|International Amateur Bonuses/Salaries||$3,764,625|
As I noted at that time, that international amateur category could look wildly different before it's all said and done. The figure above merely represents the Cubs' projected pool, a 5 percent overage, and the corresponding tax for exceeding the assigned limit. Jorge Soler has graduated from the group too, taking his $2,000,000 salary with him. Gerardo Concepcion, incredibly, has both 2015 and 2016 still to go.
As an additional reminder also found in the article linked above, here is an approximate rundown of team spending in various categories over the past eight seasons:
Well then. With that stage set, let's take a look at the team's current projected roster for 2015 with the cash outlays for each player. I'm going to kick Blake Parker and Brian Schlitter off of the 40-man for purposes of this snapshot so I don't go over 40 (because I include Kris Bryant for obvious, late-April reasons). I suspect that the Cubs will make a small trade in the coming days to clear room. Whether you prefer to move Parker, Christian Villanueva, Donn Roach, Schlitter, etc., just roll along for purposes of the snapshot:
|Player Name||Position||2015 Cash Outlay|
|Tommy La Stella||2B||$515,000|
Simply put, the 40-man payroll number is going to be the first of its kind in the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era. Spending could track the 2012 season reasonably closely with Carlos Zambrano's dead money left on the roster in the form of Edwin Jackson.
There is an additional expense that could very well figure into the payroll that isn't represented above: incentives. Tsuyoshi Wada has $2 million on the line based on the number of starts he makes for the big-league club, and Jason Motte has $2.5 million in play based on games finished.
As an aside, don't be surprised if the Cubs send Justin Grimm to the minors for the first month or so of the season to "stretch out as a starter" before returning to his relief role. Grimm projects to achieve Super Two status in 2016 if he spends most or all of the year on the 25-man roster. Additionally, Grimm must clear Optional Assignment Waivers if he is sent to Iowa later than June 16, 2015, leaving him possibly on the outside looking in to start the season with the crowded back-end and bullpen pitching picture.
Regardless, looking at these categories begs an obvious question: what is the true spending capacity of the Cubs? Is the 2010-11 average of $157,395,000 an unattainable figure or a reasonable ceiling? Or is the 2012-14 adjusted average figure the most accurate number? Adding in $40,000,000 for Masahiro Tanaka and subtracting $6,000,000 for Jason Hammel last year, the average total spending over the past three years across the four categories listed would have been $135,806,890.
Based on the current 40-man payroll estimate of $119,235,000 and the total from the other three categories above of $14,002,615, the Cubs are on track to spend approximately $133,237,615 in 2015. There should be something like $10 million of new cash available thanks to the new portion of the television deal, but that hardly answers (1) what the full budget figure was for 2015 prior to that deal, or (2) how the Cubs plan to spend their remaining financial might.
It seems eminently reasonable to think that the club will dole out $20 million in international bonuses and tax payments this summer. Then again, perhaps a trade for an expensive veteran could be in the cards with the likes of Justin Upton, Ben Zobrist, or Marlon Byrd all possibilities of varying attractiveness. Maybe the front office continues to scratch their aggressive itch, trading Travis Wood and Luis Valbuena to clear enough payroll space to add James Shields to the rebuilt rotation.
Regardless, it's clear that spending will be up to at least 2013 levels for the Cubs with 2012 appearing likely and even 2010-11 in sight.
The Ricketts family said that they would spend when the time for spending came. They certainly appear to be true to their word. At this point, the primary intrigue appears to be on exactly what asset the club will spend its remaining cash.