The Cubs opened camp hoping to add another reliever who would fit within their budget and landed Xavier Cedeño with a $900,000 non-guaranteed deal.— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) February 14, 2019
This is quite a reasonable deal for a pitcher who posted a combined 0.9 bWAR in 2018. Per Spotrac, Cedeno made about $830,000 in 2018.
Here, then, are the current updated estimated team numbers:
Cubs payroll and luxury tax hits for 2019
|Carl Edwards Jr.||$1,500,000||$1,500,000|
|Albert Almora Jr.||$620,000||$620,000|
|40-man minor leaguers (estimate)||$2,250,000|
|Player benefits & misc (estimate)||$14,500,000|
|LUXURY TAX THRESHOLD 1||$206,000,000|
|LUXURY TAX THRESHOLD 2||$226,000,000|
|LUXURY TAX THRESHOLD 3||$246,000,000|
You will note that the Cubs, by these estimates, are well over the second luxury tax level of $226 million.
That comes with several caveats. First, the salaries for the five pre-arb players on the ballclub (Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr., Victor Caratini and David Bote) have not yet been announced. They could be a bit more than noted above. Kendall Graveman will make $2 million this year if he throws even one pitch for the big-league Cubs.
But most importantly, the Cubs would now appear to have 11 relievers on the 40-man roster with major-league experience for eight bullpen spots. They are: Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Brad Brach, Carl Edwards Jr., Tony Barnette, Xavier Cedeno, Mike Montgomery, Brian Duensing, Brandon Kintzler and Tyler Chatwood. And that doesn’t even include Brandon Morrow, who won’t be ready for the beginning of the season, but who (hopefully) will eventually resume his role as closer. It also doesn’t include the 13 non-roster pitching invitees to spring camp. Most of those pitchers have little or no chance of making the Opening Day roster, though many will wind up on the Iowa Shuttle this season.
Obviously, not all of those pitchers will be on the 25-man roster on Opening Day March 28 in Texas. It’s possible some of them might simply be released, which would mean the Cubs would be on the hook for their salaries, both cash-wise and luxury tax-wise. Or, perhaps one or more could be traded if they show well enough in camp. That’s probably what Theo & Co. are hoping.
Again, note Patrick Mooney’s tweet above. Cedeno’s contract is non-guaranteed. He will have to make the team to get paid. The $900,000 won’t break the bank, and if Cedeno throws the way he did last year, he’d be worth the money paid to him and (for example) the $3.5 million the Cubs owe Duensing.
While we don’t know the exact salary numbers yet, nor do we know what the precise ceiling is on the Cubs’ 2019 budget, it does appear they still have room for a mid-season acquisition. And it’s still possible that one of more of the relief contracts could be off-loaded before Opening Day. Lastly, based on Theo’s comments in his camp-opening news conference, the possibility still exists that Addison Russell won’t be on the team when his suspension ends. Per the CBA, if the Cubs cut Russell 16 days or more before Opening Day, they will owe him only one-sixth (30 days’ worth) of his $3.4 million deal. If they cut him after that date (March 12, this year) but before Opening Day, they owe him 45 days’ worth of the $3.4 million. After Opening Day, the contract becomes guaranteed, less the money he would lose from the 29 games remaining on his suspension.
Note that at this point I’m not expecting Russell to be let go, only noting what the Cubs would owe Russell in the event it happens.
If the Cubs sign any further players, and/or when the pre-arb salary figures are released, I’ll update this again.