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A pre-Opening Day estimate of the 2021 Cubs payroll and luxury tax

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They’re way under the tax threshold. Could that mean more spending later?

Photo by Mary Turner/Getty Images

We’re not quite to a Cubs Opening Day roster — there are still a couple of choices to be made, including a catcher to back up Willson Contreras. Austin Romine hasn’t played since March 6 and it’s a logical assumption he will start the year on the injured list. P.J. Higgins has been mentioned as a potential backup, but the Cubs might also be checking the waiver wire for a veteran.

All that said, here’s an updated list of 2021 Cubs salaries and the estimated luxury tax hit they will have. After this table of numbers, I will as always turn the rest of this post over to BCB’s The Deputy Mayor of Rush Street for analysis.

Cubs estimated salaries and luxury tax hits for 2021

Player Salary Tax hit
Player Salary Tax hit
Jason Heyward $21,000,000 $23,000,000
Kris Bryant $19,500,000 $19,500,000
Anthony Rizzo $16,500,000 $16,500,000
Craig Kimbrel $16,000,000 $14,333,333
Kyle Hendricks $14,000,000 $13,875,000
Javier Baez $11,650,000 $11,650,000
Zach Davies $8,630,000 $8,630,000
Joc Pederson $4,500,000 $7,000,000
Willson Contreras $6,650,000 $6,650,000
Jake Arrieta $4,000,000 $6,000,000
Ian Happ $4,100,000 $4,100,000
David Bote $1,000,000 $3,000,000
Yu Darvish $3,000,000 $3,000,000
Andrew Chafin $2,250,000 $2,750,000
Trevor Williams $2,500,000 $2,500,000
Austin Romine $1,500,000 $1,500,000
Jake Marisnick $1,000,000 $1,500,000
Brandon Workman $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Eric Sogard $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Matt Duffy $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Rex Brothers $900,000 $900,000
Dan Winkler $900,000 $900,000
Ryan Tepera $800,000 $800,000
Alec Mills $590,000 $590,000
Adbert Alzolay $585,000 $585,000
Rowan Wick $585,000 $585,000
Jason Adam $580,000 $580,000
P.J. Higgins $570,000 $570,000
Dillon Maples $570,000 $570,000
40-man minor leaguers (estimate) $2,250,000
Player benefits and misc (estimate) $15,500,000
Reserve withheld for trades/buffer $0
TOTAL $145,720,000 $172,318,333
LUXURY TAX THRESHOLD 1 $210,000,000
LUXURY TAX THRESHOLD 2 $230,000,000
LUXURY TAX THRESHOLD 3 $250,000,000

The 2021 Cubs Roster is (basically) set

TOP LINE: Time to play ball, and see what this team can do!

The Cubs’ 40-man roster will be full, though there are some details to figure out how Brothers, Duffy, Sogard and a backup catcher to be named get added so they can be on the 26-man playing roster. As of early Monday morning, the Cubs’ 40-man roster is at 38, with Rowan Wick expected to clear a spot if/when placed on the 60-day injured list.

(Note, these figures are for each player’s ‘cap hit’, the charge against the Cubs’ luxury tax spending level. The base luxury tax threshold is $210,000,000 in 2021, the final year of the current CBA.)

Players with Negotiated Contracts

Heyward $23,000,000 (signed through 2023)
Rizzo $16,500,000 (Pending Free Agent)
Kimbrel $14,333,333 ($16M team option in 2022, $1M buyout)
Hendricks $13,875,000 (signed through 2024)
Pederson $7,000,000 (Pending Free Agent via mutual option for 2022)
Arrieta $6,000,000 (Pending Free Agent via mutual option for 2022)
Bote $3,000,000 (signed through 2024)
Chafin $2,750,000 (Pending Free Agent via mutual option for 2022)
Romine $1,500,000 (Pending Free Agent)
Marisnick $1,500,000 (Pending Free Agent via mutual option for 2022)
Sogard $1,000,000 (Pending Free Agent)
Duffy $1,000,000 (Pending Free Agent)
Workman $1,000,000 (Pending Free Agent)
Tepera $800,000 (Pending Free Agent)
Darvish $3,000,000¹

===================================================================

TOTAL $96,258,333

===================================================================

¹ - The Cubs are paying $3,000,000 cash/luxury tax spending on Yu Darvish’s 2021 contract as part of his trade to SD.

Arbitration Eligible Players

Bryant $19,500,000 (Pending Free Agent)
Baez $11,650,000 (Pending Free Agent)
Davies $8,630,000 (Pending Free Agent)
Contreras $6,650,000 (Team Control through 2022)
Happ $4,100,000 (Team Control through 2023)
Williams $2,500,000 (Team Control through 2022)
Winkler $900,000 (Pending Free Agent)
Brothers $900,000 (Team Control through 2022)

===================================================================
TOTAL $54,830,000
===================================================================

Note: The MLB minimum salary for 2021 will be approximately $570,000 - subject to a COLA adjustment from last year’s $563,500 - which was an $8,500 raise from the $555,000 minimum in 2019.

Pre-Arb Players on the 26-man roster

Adam $580,000 (2 options)
Alzolay $585,000 (1 option)
Higgins $570,000 (3 options)
Maples $570.000 (OUT OF OPTIONS)
Mills $590,000 (OUT OF OPTIONS)
Wick $585,000 (1 option)

===================================================================
TOTAL $3,480,000
===================================================================

Other expenses that count against the luxury tax

40-man Roster Players in Minors $2,250,000
Pension Payments & Sundry Expenses $15,500,000
(Reserve Withheld for Trades/Buffer)² $0 (To be determined)

===================================================================
TOTAL $17,750,000
===================================================================

GRAND TOTAL FOR TAX PURPOSES $172,318,333

LUXURY TAX THRESHOLD $210,000,000

CUBS ARE CURRENTLY UNDER THE TAX BY $37,681,667

²- It will be up to Hoyer to set a trade budget for July, if the Cubs turn out to be ‘buyers’.

Note: Jon Lester’s buyout of $10,000,000 is a 2021 cash expenditure, but it is for money that’s already been accounted for in previous seasons for luxury cap spending purposes. There is no “cap hit” for a contract at the time a team option is ‘bought out’. The same holds for the $1,000,000 buyout paid to Daniel Descalso.

Lester $10,000,000 buyout - cash without cap hit
Descalso $1,000,000 buyout - cash without cap hit
Hendricks $125,000 - salary over cap hit
Bote <-$2,000,000> - cap hit over salary
Trade Budget $0 - optional expense

TOTAL $9,125,000 - cash outlay over cap hit total

ADJUSTED FOR ACTUAL PAYROLL EXPENDITURES IN 2021

GRAND TOTAL IN CASH OUTLAY $181,443,333

Projected 26-man Roster:

OF - Pederson, Happ, Heyward, Marisnick

IF - Bryant, Baez, Bote, Rizzo, Sogard, Duffy

C - Contreras, Higgins/Waiver Claim (Romine on the IL)

SP - Hendricks, Arrieta, Davies, Williams, Alzolay

RP - Kimbrel, Chafin, Workman, Winkler, Brothers, Tepera, Adam, Maples, Mills

BOTTOM LINE: The final budget was adjusted enough to bring back Jake Arrieta and perhaps a couple/few small cost veterans, which turned the $170 million budget I was guessing at the start of the winter into a $180 million budget, at least for now.

The big question now shifts to the field, and we find out if the team can contend or not. If so, will there be money to add reinforcements? If not, trading away pending free agents in July could potentially cut $10 million or even more off the final total spent on payroll for the 2021 season.

There is room under the salary cap if the Cubs were to reach agreements on contract extensions, but for 2022 the team only has Kyle Hendricks, Jason Heyward and David Bote under contract. It’s the last stand for our World Series champions.