Sunday, the Cubs announced that all 17 pre-arbitration players on the 40-man roster had their contracts renewed for the 2019 season.
For the purpose of this exercise, keeping track of the Cubs’ 2019 payroll and luxury tax, we are primarily concerned with three players:
The Cubs have now signed all 17 of their pre-arbitration players, a group that includes Willson Contreras ($684,000), Albert Almora Jr. ($615,500) and Ian Happ ($603,500).— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) March 3, 2019
Now, here’s the complete list, as far as we have it, of Cubs salaries and their luxury-tax hits for 2019:
Cubs payroll and luxury tax hits for 2019
|Carl Edwards Jr.||$1,500,000||$1,500,000|
|Albert Almora Jr.||$615,500||$615,500|
|40-man minor leaguers (estimate)||$2,500,000|
|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|
There are a couple of things that require an explanation here. First, as you can see there are 30 players listed here, and that’s more than the Cubs can carry at any one time. David Bote will likely shuttle up and down from Triple-A Iowa, thus, his salary is estimated as less than the major-league minimum of $555,000. Bote is likely on a split contract, which pays him the MLB mininum when he’s in Chicago, less when he’s at Iowa.
Victor Caratini will almost certainly be on the 25-man roster all year, or most.
Some of the other players will begin the year on the injured list. Kendall Graveman is on the 60-day IL and isn’t expected to be ready to pitch until August at the earliest. His contract is structured so that he’ll get $2 million this year if he spends even one day on the active roster. So, these figures will have to be adjusted if Graveman does return this season.
Xavier Cedeno (who has yet to appear in a spring game) and Tony Barnette are both “on the bubble” as far as making the Opening Day roster. However, since both were signed to major-league contracts, they’ll both get paid the number shown above and will have that much of a hit to the luxury-tax figure.
I’ve made a couple of adjustments in my numbers since the last update here based on figures given on this Spotrac page.
As you can see, the Cubs are over the second level of luxury tax ($226 million) by about $3 million. (Spotrac has it a little bit lower, but we’re both in the same, uh, ballpark.) It’s been generally assumed that the Cubs are willing to go over that level — which will result in a luxury tax payment of about $4 million — but do want to stay below the top level of $246 million. This would presumably leave them about $15 million worth of space for mid-season acquisitions, if all these calculations are correct, or close, and I believe they are.
As a final note, in addition to Contreras, Almora, Caratini and Happ, the other pre-arb players renewed Sunday are Adbert Alzolay, David Bote, Taylor Davis, Oscar De La Cruz, Dillon Maples, Alec Mills, James Norwood, Randy Rosario, Justin Steele, Jen-Ho Tseng, Duane Underwood Jr., Rowan Wick and Mark Zagunis.