Now that the Cubs have a 26-man roster that’s fairly stable, with the occasional recall from Triple-A Iowa, I thought this would be a good time to look again at the team’s payroll and where they stand on luxury tax calculations for 2023.
Taking into account the recent activations of Seiya Suzuki and Brandon Hughes from the injured list, here are all the payroll numbers and luxury tax hits. The Cubs aren’t over luxury tax level one ($233 million) but they’re getting close:
Cubs estimated salaries and luxury tax hits for 2023
|Jason Heyward (released)||$21,280,000||$22,280,000|
|Kyle Hendricks (IL)||$14,000,000||$13,875,000|
|Mark Leiter Jr.||$850,000||$850,000|
|Codi Heuer (IL)||$785,000||$785,000|
|Ethan Roberts (IL)||$721,000||$721,000|
|40-man minor leaguers (estimate)||$2,250,000|
|Pension payments, benefits, etc.||$16,500,000|
|Cubs share of pre-arb bonus pool||$1,666,667|
|Reserve for trades, etc.||$10,000,000|
|FIRST LUXURY TAX THRESHOLD||$233,000,000|
As always, I turn the rest of this post over to BCB’s The Deputy Mayor of Rush Street for his analysis. The rest of this post is his.
The 2023 Cubs Roster: Here’s Your Team.. What’s Next?
TOP LINE: The early returns are reasonably encouraging, in as much as the Cubs appear to be trying to play the kind of baseball that Jed Hoyer had in mind when assembling this group. Of course when you break it down to individual cases there are some wildly divergent outcomes, perfectly understandable in the SSS of fourteen games. Me, I’ll mostly be looking toward the start of July to make any serious assessments, but that’s not stopping any of you from calling for changes that are possibly premature. (Or brilliantly foresighted!)
Since we last ran these numbers and the team broke camp, a few moves have been made within the 40-man roster, but nothing that materially affects the Cubs luxury tax threshold spending total. Even Kyle Hendricks coming back at some point... his money’s already being paid out, and his returning to the active roster won’t change that. Basically the cake is baked, money-wise.
Current Roster - The 40-man roster is currently FULL, with two additional players on the 60-day IL.
....OF (4) Happ - Bellinger - Suzuki - Mancini
....IF (6) Wisdom - Swanson - Hoerner - Hosmer - Madrigal - Rios
....C (3) Gomes - Barnhart - Torrens
....SP (5) Stroman - Steele - Taillon - Smyly - Wesneski (Hendricks on IL)
....RP (8+1) Fulmer - Boxberger - Hughes - Alzolay - Leiter Jr - Thompson - Merryweather - Rucker (Heuer on 60-Day IL)
40 man pos. players in minors (7) - Kevin Alcantara, Miguel Amaya, Alexander Canario, Brennen Davis, Miles Mastrobuoni, Christopher Morel, Nelson Velazquez.
40 man pitchers in minors (6+1) - Javier Assad, Ben Brown, Jeremiah Estrada, Ryan Jensen, Caleb Kilian, Ethan Roberts (60-Day IL), Adrian Sampson.
Pre-Arb Players on the 26-man roster or MLB IL - as things stand (8, plus Roberts on the 60-day IL):
Roberts $721,000 (on 60-day IL)
Pre-Arb Players making the ‘downside’ of their MLB deals in the minors (10):
Assad ($721,500 in majors)
Mastrobuoni ($720,500 in majors)
Morel ($ ??? in majors)
Velazquez ($ ??? in majors)
40-man Roster Players in Minors $2,250,000
Pension Payments & Sundry Expenses $16,500,000
Cubs’ Share of Pre-Arb Bonus Pool $1,666,667
(Reserve Withheld for Trades/Buffer)¹ [Cap Space Remaining]
GRAND TOTAL FOR CBT/CAP PURPOSES $222,311,297
LUXURY TAX THRESHOLD $233,000,000
CUBS REMAIN UNDER THE TAX BY $10,688,703 (Effectively, the trade budget for July)
¹- Optional Expense, but some amount figures to be held back from whatever Tom Ricketts sets the baseball budget at.
ADJUSTED FOR ACTUAL PAYROLL EXPENDITURES IN 2023
GRAND TOTAL IN CASH OUTLAY $215,493,917
(This figure includes deducting $6,817,380 in adjustments between contract payouts and cap valuations.)
BOTTOM LINE: Again, absent Hoyer & Co. making a trade, the team may change out players from the minors at some point in the season, but that kind of move won’t materially affect the cap spending number here. What’s left can be considered Jed’s trade budget, though he’ll need to keep an eye on performance bonuses and such. My view is that it would be somewhat silly to build the team without incurring any luxury tax penalties, only to go marginally over the threshold in July. (Though it’s an option if the team is contending.)
So while Nelson Velázquez had a great season debut, I wonder where he’s going to play now that Suzuki is back. Does the brain trust think his value is as a bench player in The Show, rather than getting regular playing time in Iowa with an eye on a full-time spot - like it seems the front office still hopes for with Christopher Morel. Happ, Bellinger, Suzuki... barring another IL stint among that group, we can talk about that long-term situation once July comes.
For the short-term, the team really could use a backup who can play center field. So whether it’s Velazquez coming right back up whenever Bellinger needs some time off or someone else, I don’t know that a bench of Mancini, Madrigal, Rios, Torrens and the actual backup catcher is doing the team all that much good right now. It certainly isn’t providing much flexibility for Ross, and it’s inevitable that some of the starters will need some days off here and there.
On the other hand, if Brennen Davis or Matt Mervis suddenly appear ready... they’ll need spots to play more often than sit on the bench in The Show. Again, I think that’s probably a discussion for July - how Hoyer might need to make room for someone. Something you might want to keep in mind for the next three months or so while we (hopefully) enjoy this team’s play.
In the nearer term, Kyle Hendricks is beginning to ramp up, and he’s perhaps a month away. Maybe his return doesn’t have quite as many fans scratching their heads to try and figure out if there’s room in the rotation for him as there was, say, two weeks ago. Of course, things can happen in a month that coule re-shuffle the deck once again.