We’re not one week into the 2021 postseason and still a few weeks until MLB free agency begins.
Nevertheless, thanks to the folks at MLB Trade Rumors, we now have some arbitration estimates for MLB players for 2022.
Thus we can begin to build an estimate of the Cubs’ payroll obligations for next season. I’m not going to put together an entire spreadsheet of players and estimates yet; it’s far too early for that.
But we can at least get an idea of where the team is going to stand with some of the players returning for next season.
The Cubs have three players under long-term contract in 2022: Jason Heyward, Kyle Hendricks and David Bote. The numbers below are per Spotrac.
Heyward is due $24.5 million ($22 million salary and a signing bonus portion of $2.5 millions). The luxury-tax hit on Heyward’s deal for 2022 is $23 million.
Hendricks will make $14 million in 2022 (tax hit $14 million) and Bote will make $2.5 million plus a signing bonus portion of $10,000, for a total of $2.51 million (tax hit $2.51 million).
For those three players, then: Total salary (plus bonuses) $41,010,000; total tax hit $39,510,000.
Here are the projected arb salaries from MLBTR. The tax hits on these would be the same as the salaries, unless any of the players below winds up with a multi-year deal, possible in the case of Willson Contreras:
Rex Brothers – $1.5MM
Adam Morgan – $1.3MM
Willson Contreras – $8.7MM
Jonathan Holder – $800K
Joe Biagini – $800K
Ian Happ – $6.5MM
First, let me say that I cannot imagine the Cubs paying Rex Brothers, who had a terrible year in 2021 and who will turn 34 in December, anything close to $1.5 million. More likely, he gets non-tendered.
The same could apply to Jonathan Holder, who missed all of 2021 (except for two minor league rehab innings), and Joe Biagini, who wasn’t good as a starter at Iowa and made just one MLB appearance, on the last day of the season.
Both Biagini and Holder have had MLB success in the past, though, so let’s for the moment say that the Cubs will give them around that much money.
The numbers for Willson Contreras, Ian Happ and Adam Morgan seem pretty reasonable, so let’s go with them for now.
Thus for the five players except Brothers, the Cubs could be on the hook for $18.1 million in arb salaries.
With the three under long-term contract, that would put the Cubs at $59,110,000 in committed salaries for 2022. There will likely be around 10 more pre-arb players renewed at or near the minimum salary. For the sake of argument let’s say those players average about $650,000, which is a bit more than the 2021 minimum of $570,000 (and that’s likely going to go up in the new CBA).
This all adds up, before the Cubs make a single trade or free agent signing, to approximately $65,610,000.
These are, of course, back-of-the-envelope calculations and I expect to get more precise with them as the offseason continues. But with a large bulk of the 2022 Cubs under contract at that total amount of money, Jed Hoyer & Co. should have a lot to spend in free agency — in my opinion, perhaps as much as $90 - $100 million.
That ought to go a long way toward making the 2022 Cubs a competitive and possibly contending baseball team.