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A Look At The Cubs Actual Spending in 2015

The Cubs' baseball spending was way up in 2015. Just how high did it get?

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

2015 was a banner year for the Ricketts ownership of the Cubs. They enjoyed their best regular season since 2008 and followed it up with rousing October victories over the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals before bowing out of the tournament against the flamethrowing New York Mets. Nevertheless, Cubs fever is back on a wide scale.

But not all of the success was in Chicago. Although the Cubs graduated a quartet of elite prospects to The Show in Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Kris Bryant, the system enjoyed another successful campaign buoyed by another top-ten draft pick, an aggressive international amateur signing approach, and strong development, particularly in the middle levels.

We've heard a number of things about the Cubs and their spending past. Perhaps of most importance to Cubs fans, we've heard that the Cubs would spend when the time was right.

Did that turn out to be true in 2015? Let's take a look.

This article will focus exclusively on actual spending in 2015, as estimated to the best of my knowledge, with a subsequent article in the coming days with projected 2016 spending.

Last November, I looked at the Cubs' commitments for the coming year and estimated expenditures in amateur talent acquisition. You can see that article here. I explained a number of things in that article, the most important of which was this: these are my estimates based on available information. They are definitely not perfect, but they should give us a sense for total spending.

Approximate Spending from 2007-2014

Before moving to 2015, I think it's useful to revisit the prior years for which I have reasonably detailed information. Now, a disclaimer: these numbers don't look exactly the same as they did last November. That may seem strange, but it is the result of (1) more information coming available, and (2) me fixing a few of the holes in my counting. For example, I've moved the penalty that the Cubs had to pay for overshooting their 2013 international amateur signing bonus pool from 2013 to 2014 given that the club actually paid the penalty in 2014... I think. That's my best guess. If anybody knows exactly when such penalties are due, please let me know in the comments.

Without further ado, here's the approximate spending from 2007-14:

Year 40-Man

Bonuses +

Draft Bonuses Dead Money TOTAL
2007 $112,633,999 $1,920,000 $5,507,250 $0 $120,061,249
2008 $130,621,000 $2,840,000 $5,104,500 $0 $138,565,500
2009 $139,226,500 $3,725,000 $3,894,700 $2,653,279 $149,499,479
2010 $142,840,000 $5,175,000 $4,036,000 $1,500,000 $153,585,000
2011 $137,886,000 $5,120,000 $11,999,000 $0 $155,005,000
2012 $102,906,000 $13,370,000 $9,304,050 $15,500,000 $141,080,050
2013 $96,004,000 $12,920,000 $12,517,325 $0 $121,441,325
2014 $76,967,000 $8,619,700 $10,091,850 $14,764,344 $110,442,894

True to their word, the Ricketts family cut way back on 40-man spending while pumping some of those cost savings into amateur acquisitions, both domestically and abroad.

As the team's fortunes changed in 2014, did that trend continue? Let's see.

Dead Money

This category, rather unfortunately, jumped rather highly in 2015. This occurred in part because my recordkeeping has gotten better over the years and in part because the Cubs were contenders, less willing to throw away roster spots on underperforming players.

Player Dead Money Note
Kyuji Fujikawa $500,000 Buyout of $5.5M club option
Felix Doubront $473,361 45 days of termination pay from $1.925M arbitration award
Ryan Sweeney $2,000,000 2015 salary and buyout of 2016 option
Phil Coke $2,250,000 I just put all of Coke down here since he was barely on 40-man
Edwin Jackson $4,600,000 Remaining 2015 salary after release
TOTAL $9,823,361

I suspect that Cubs teams from 2011-14 would have kept Sweeney, eschewing the Chris Denorfia signing. But the 2015 Cubs were about building the best roster possible immediately. Accordingly, Sweeney had to go.

Draft Bonuses

Normally this category requires a decent bit of estimation and 2015 was no different. Some players in rounds 11 through 40 get $1,000 bonuses and others get the maximum $100,000. None of them are widely reported, so the estimation has to stick.

Player Amount Note
Ian Happ $3,000,000
Donnie Dewees $1,700,000
Bryan Hudson $1,100,000
Darryl Wilson $1,300,000
Ryan Kellogg $376,700
Estimate Rounds 6-40 $1,000,000 ESTIMATE
Penalties $256,950 Per Baseball America
TOTAL $8,733,650

That estimate still bugs me. We have numbers for rounds 6-10, but no bonus amounts the rest of the way. I don't like taking stabs in the dark. Argh.

International Bonuses + Salaries

Rather wonderfully, Jorge Soler made his permanent graduation from this category to the 40-man category (see you down below, Jorge!). Because the Cubs went a little crazy again in this category, it represents a major expense, though it would have been $1 million more had Christopher Martinez's deal not fallen through:

Player Amount Note
Gerardo Concepcion $600,000 Only one more year...
Eddy Julio Martinez $3,000,000
Yonathan Sierra Estiwal $2,500,000
Aramis Ademan $2,000,000
Yonathan Perlaza $1,300,000
Wen Hua Sung $1,250,000 Unconfirmed Report
Miguel Amaya $1,250,000
Kwang-Min Kwon $1,200,000
Yunior Perez $600,000
Brailyn Marquez $600,000 Unconfirmed Report
Luis Diaz $350,000 On roster; amount unconfirmed
OTHERS (estimate) $100,000
TOTAL $14,750,000

That "OTHERS" category used to be much larger, but now that Major League Baseball only allows unlimited bonuses in the amount of $10,000 or less, that category has shrunk considerably. Nonetheless, this category ballooned in 2015 and it will stay largely the same when the club's penalty of approximately $10,769,900 comes due.

40-Man Roster

The meatiest part of all. As I've said in previous iterations of this piece, I like to have an extra member or two of the 40-man to account for the fact that multiple players spend time on the 60-day disabled list, meaning the 40-man roster tends to have 42 or 43 members. Further, my estimates do not otherwise account for minor league salaries or benefit payments to players, so having a couple of extra bodies and counting every member of the 40-man as earning at least the Major League minimum (even though they may be in the minor leagues) gives us a more accurate reflection of actual spending, the whole point of the exercise.

Let's get right to it, then:

Player Amount Note
Jon Lester $30,000,000 Includes $15M signing bonus
Miguel Montero $12,000,000
Dexter Fowler $9,500,000
Jason Hammel $9,000,000
Edwin Jackson $6,400,000 Portion when on roster
Starlin Castro $6,000,000
Travis Wood $5,685,000
Anthony Rizzo $5,000,000
Jason Motte $4,500,000 assumes no incentives reached
Tsuyoshi Wada $4,000,000
Jake Arrieta $3,630,000
David Ross $2,750,000 Includes $500K signing bonus
Chris Denorfia $2,600,000
Pedro Strop $2,525,000
Chris Coghlan $2,505,000
Jorge Soler $2,000,000
Rafael Soriano $1,672,727 Approximate pro-rated salary
Tommy Hunter $1,651,639 Amount remaining at time of trade
Fernando Rodney $1,490,000 Amount remaining at time of trade
Austin Jackson $1,000,000 Amount due from Cubs
Jacob Turner $1,000,000
Jonathan Herrera $900,000
Hector Rondon $544,000
Justin Grimm $531,500
Yoervis Medina $527,300
Neil Ramirez $514,500
Tommy La Stella $513,000
Zac Rosscup $510,500
Arismendy Alcantara $510,000
Kyle Hendricks $510,000
Matt Szczur $508,500
Dallas Beeler $508,000
Javier Baez $507,500
Kris Bryant $507,500
C.J. Edwards $507,500
Eric Jokisch $507,500
Addison Russell $507,500
Kyle Schwarber $507,500
Taylor Teagarden $507,500
Christian Villanueva $507,500
James Russell $507,500 Pro-rated: $421,530
Clayton Richard $507,500 Pro-rated: $230,145
Trevor Cahill $507,500 Pro-rated: $100,320
Quintin Berry $507,500 Pro-rated: $100,320
TOTAL $127,076,666

Whew! There you have it.

You'll notice that I indicated the approximate pro-rated amounts that the last four players actually received in the column to the right. Here's the thing: while Quintin Berry might have only received approximately $100,320 from the Cubs, his roster spot was manned by guys like Mike Baxter and Junior Lake earlier in the season, guys who are not represented here. Listing only Berry's actual amount would miss the earnings of that earlier players. Is the estimation perfect? Of course not. But I like to try to capture as much information as possible.

Tying It All Together

Well, remember that thing that Tom Ricketts said about money being available when it was needed? It sure seems like he was telling the truth. Here's an updated look at that chart from the top with 2015 added in:

Year 40-Man International
Bonuses +
Draft Bonuses Dead Money TOTAL
2007 $112,633,999 $1,920,000 $5,507,250 $0 $120,061,249
2008 $130,621,000 $2,840,000 $5,104,500 $0 $138,565,500
2009 $139,226,500 $3,725,000 $3,894,700 $2,653,279 $149,499,479
2010 $142,840,000 $5,175,000 $4,036,000 $1,500,000 $153,585,000
2011 $137,886,000 $5,120,000 $11,999,000 $0 $155,005,000
2012 $102,906,000 $13,370,000 $9,304,050 $15,500,000 $141,080,050
2013 $96,004,000 $12,920,000 $12,517,325 $0 $121,441,325
2014 $76,967,000 $8,619,700 $10,091,850 $14,764,344 $110,442,894
2015 $127,076,666 $14,750,000 $8,733,650 $9,823,361 $160,383,677

In simple total dollars, the 2015 spending eclipsed the 2010 and 2011 expenditures that were fueled by the bloated payrolls from the early Ricketts years, led by the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Dempster, Kosuke Fukudome, Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly, and Carlos Silva.

Thankfully, I think that we can all agree that the current roster looks to have a whole lot more staying power than that group.

While the 2015 spending is quite a bit lower than 2009-11 dollars when adjusted for inflation in baseball, personally, I'm a bit surprised (pleasantly) that the total spending got as high as it did this year. The Ricketts really poured a lot of dollars into the international amateur market and ate some bad deals on the MLB level in an effort to win. That's ownership perfection.

We'll look to 2016 in the coming days.