Yesterday, Chicago Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry took to the media to refute suggestions that the team had serious financial troubles that would prohibit any kind free agent signings in the offseason.
“That’s not true at all,” Hendry said before last night’s series opener against the Brewers. “I had a lot of meetings with [Tom Ricketts] in the offseason. We knew the path we went on in ’07, ’08, when the club was going up for sale. It was high level spending and obviously turned into divisional championship success. When you don’t finish that off, and the length of the time that the sale took, there was an area there where [payroll was] a little stagnant, and moving forward. Nobody’s fault. That’s the price of doing business. It’s a historic franchise. It took a long time to sell.
“All our conversations with Tom in the offseason, and currently,” Hendry continued, “is ‘Let’s get to work. Let’s make the right decisions for next year. Let’s scout heavily at the major league level. Let’s keep an eye on our own guys development.’ It’s always been positive.”
“There’s never been any talk of not pursuing any free agents,” he said. “There are no financial difficulties here with the Ricketts family. And I think it will be a great franchise, and better than it’s ever been, down the road.”
As far as denials and refutations go, Hendry’s was fairly political. Note that he didn’t out-and-out say the Cubs will go after big name free agents, just that “there’s never been any talk of not” going after those guys. Still, Hendry’s statements comport with my recent analysis of the Cubs’ financial situation, and conclusion that the team probably will have plenty of cash to sign free agents.
In the end, the Cubs have some $50 million coming off the books at the end of 2011, and it’s almost impossible to imagine the Cubs not putting at least $40 million of that back into the team’s payroll. $10 to 15 million of that will be eaten up by arbitration raises and ML minimums, but the money should be there to go after a big name or two.
Perhaps the more interesting question is whether Jim Hendry will be the guy doing the going.