We’ve had many discussions here about the Cubs’ payroll for 2018 and how Theo & Co. seemed determined to stay under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million this year.
Whether you agree with that determination or not, the Cubs front office did accomplish this goal. In March, after the Cubs got everyone on the ballclub signed for this year, I posted this article estimating the Cubs’ total payroll for luxury tax purposes at $184,582,892. This includes not only salaries for the 25-man roster, but estimates for what minor leaguers on the 40-man roster will be paid as well as other player benefits.
Opening Day payrolls were recently obtained by the Associated Press and it turns out that estimate was very, very close:
San Francisco was just below the $197 million tax threshold at $196.66 million. The Giants were followed by the Chicago Cubs at $183.9 million, Houston at $182.4 million, the Los Angeles Dodgers at $181.99 million and the New York Yankees at $178.8 million.
My March estimate included Justin Grimm’s total 2018 salary; the Cubs saved some money when they released him four days after my estimate was posted. The difference between my estimate and the report in the linked article is just under $700,000; that’s about the difference between the money saved by letting Grimm go and what the Cubs are paying Eddie Butler, who eventually replaced Grimm on the 25-man roster.
Thus the Cubs have approximately $13 million remaining of “cap space.” Though there’s no official salary cap in baseball, the Cubs (and several other teams, as you can see in the linked article) are treating the $197 million tax threshold as an unofficial cap. That $13 million could be used for a midseason acquisition or two, if the Cubs need to make moves at or around the trading deadline, July 31.
Presumably, the Cubs (and several other teams) were holding back on spending in this past very, very slow offseason in order to position themselves for more spending next winter, when players such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Clayton Kershaw (if he opts out) will become free agents. Whether they actually do that or not remains to be seen.