The Chicago Cubs, ever the fan of the backloaded contract, managed to backload Carlos Pena’s one-year deal – it will pay him $5 million this year, and $5 million next year. It had appeared that the Cubs had about $10 million to work with this offseason, so when the Pena signing was announced, it was a bit hard to figure the numbers. Now with the deferral, it makes sense.

Setting aside the fact that it’s a bit scary and sad that a major market team like the Cubs has to worry about deferring a measly $5 million for a measly one year, the move will allow the Cubs to spend some more money this year.

Boras and the Cubs structured Pena’s deal so he will be paid $5 million in 2011 and the other $5 million after January 2012. By deferring half of the money, the Cubs can still make some additions to the 2011 roster and stay within their budget.

The Cubs had the top payroll in the National League in 2010 at $144 million, and with the addition of Pena, they now have more than $109 million already committed. Early projections are that next year’s payroll will be around $130 million. Five players are arbitration-eligible, including Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzelanny, Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill.

Pena did have other offers from at least five teams, and the Cubs were concerned they might lose him to a club that could afford to give the first baseman a long-term contract. But Pena’s preference to play in Chicago definitely helped.

The Cubs are heavily pursuing Matt Garza, as noted earlier, but they’ll also continue to entertain the possibility of signing a guy like Brandon Webb or Jeff Francis.

The one-year nature of Pena’s deal is clearly about making sure the Cubs have maximum money in 2012, when other expiring contracts come off the books. So in that regard, deferring $5 million to next year is actually counter-intuitive. But I suppose that was the price of getting Pena on board for 2011, when he could help the Cubs at least be moderately competitive, even if the real championship push – like some of his money – is being deferred to 2012.

  • KB

    Ace, in all seriousness, do you honestly think Ricketts is saving up his pennies for a “big championship push” in 12 months?

    I ask that without sarcasm; you seemed to be plugged into the team’s thinking, and I’d like your opinion. Are you saying that next season, the Cubs will be chasing Pujols or Prince Fielder, or whatever SP is the Cliff Lee of next year’s market?

    • pfk (Peter F. Kempf)

      I’m a born and raised Chicagoan and love our sports teams – especially the Cubs. I also went to college in St. Louis, have many friends there and follow the on-line sports pages. Anyone who thinks the Cubs have a chance at getting Pujols is as delusional as it gets. He loves St. Louis and the Cards will not let him get away. He is the biggest St. Louis sports star since Stan Musial.

      • Serio

        I see what you are saying PFK, but to have the opportunity to win a World Series for a team that hasn’t won one in over 100 years might be hard to pass up

  • Jeff

    It doesn’t look like there will be much to build a “big championship push” around outside of Fielder or Pujols in next years FA class. All the guys that could help the Cubs have club or vesting options for 2012.
    I don’t even see a suitable replacement for ARam on that list.