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The Chicago Cubs’ first offseason of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era fully kicked off today with the signing of outfielder David DeJesus – an eminently Epstein/Hoyer-ish signing – and it’s important to remember at moments like this: this whole ball got rolling thanks to the Ricketts Family, and specifically, Tom Ricketts. Not to be a drama llama, but I think we’re in for a Winter whose excitement matches the three weeks of Theo-mania. And it started with Tom.

Speaking of the big boss, Tom Ricketts addressed the media yesterday on a wide range of topics, in addition to his previously-reported comments on Epstein’s ability to sign big-time free agents like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, if he feels that’s what’s best for the team. Among his comments:

  • Ricketts said the baseball budget for 2012 would be on part with the baseball budget from 2011 (which was estimated in the $180 to $200 million range for all baseball expenses). Front office expenses (i.e., salary for the expanded/improved front office) will be dramatically higher in 2012, but amateur spending will be lower (due to the CBA). A super rough guess, then, has the big league payroll staying in the same $130 to $140 million range.
  • Speaking of which, Ricketts addressed his take on the dramatic changes to the way teams approach the draft under the new CBA: “People knew this was an issue that would be discussed in the new CBA. I was personally surprised how far it went. I thought there would be some changes [to the draft] but it’s a big shift, a bigger shift than expected. So we knew it was a possibility this would come in but it’s Theo and [general manager] Jed’s [Hoyer] decision how to allocate the money. But it will have an effect because they will only have a certain amount of dollars to allocate for the draft.”
  • Ricketts noted, in a separate interview with Dave Kaplan, that he remains thoroughly pleased with President of Business Operations Crane Kenney, and is even planning on trying to work out a contract extension with Kenney.
  • Ricketts also reiterated in that interview that Epstein and Hoyer have the authority to “eat” troublesome contracts if they believe it’s necessary. The rub is, no one knows whether “eating” means the Cubs can replace the departed salaries – in other words, if the Cubs release Soriano, does the 2012 budget increase by the amount of money owed to Soriano for 2012? I kind of doubt Ricketts was going quite that far.
  • Relatedly, Ricketts said Carlos Zambrano could theoretically be back in 2012. “I think what Theo said publicly is he’s willing to give Carlos a chance to earn his way back on the team. It’s his decision, and I support it 100 percent.’’
  • After deciding to part with Jim Hendry, Ricketts spoke with as many as 20 great baseball minds about how to proceed, and, when he asked who would be the “dream scenario” leader in the front office, the response kept coming back: Theo Epstein. It’s funny, if he’d asked the fans, we probably would have said the same thing.
  • On the renovation plans for Wrigley Field: “It’s really incumbent upon us to come up with a plan that’s a real win-win, that allows us to get the dollars into the park in a way that’s meaningful and preserve it for the long term. But there’s nothing concrete, no pun intended.” There won’t be any dramatic structural changes in 2012. On the public money part of renovations: “There is nothing really too dramatic to report. We are still talking to all the elected officials that might have a role in helping us to really get a real renovation done. It’s incumbent on everybody, and it’s a real win-win in that it allows us to get the dollars in the pot to really renovate it. That’s really meaningful for the long term …. Every level of government is behind the eight ball so you have to be sensitive to the issues they’ve got on their own budgets and balance sheets.”
  • Ricketts is not a fan of the “knock it all down but the marquee and the scoreboard” plan, for what it’s worth. It sounds like he’s envisioning a true renovation, a la Fenway Park.
  • On new manager Dale Sveum: “I was very impressed. When you talk baseball with him he has a real deep understanding and looks at things very thoughtfully. I think this will be a great fit for us.”
  • Ricketts also spoke about Ryne Sandberg and Ron Santo. On Sandberg: “Ryne will always be a Cub. He will always be welcome to all of our events. He will always be a part of the Cub family. I don’t think anything that’s happening right now will change that.” And on Santo: “Ron belongs in the Hall of Fame. We will do everything we can to get the message out to the people who make the decision. We are hopeful that they will see it that way this weekend.”
  • T C

    This is all great, Mr. Ricketts, but who is the actual owner of this team?

    • MoneyBoy

      For the record, TC, Tom is Chairman … but all 4 of the sibs have a say and a role.

      • TC

        Oh, I’m fully aware of who owns the team. It was a reference to an interview Al Yellon conducted with Tom Ricketts earlier this year, where he inexplicably asked some form of “Who is the owner” about 6 or 7 times to start the interview. It’s was very bizarre, and I bring it up as often as I can.

        Link:

        http://bleedcubbieblue.com/2011/2/9/1982909/bcb-interview-cubs-chairman-tom-ricketts-part-i

        (as a side note, I’m very glad BleacherNation exists so I don’t have to read the run-on sentence filled dreck that is BCB. The short&informative nature of this site is just the best :)
        Also, the Brett almost never weilds the Banhammer, which is nice

  • Pakman23

    Reports out that the Cubs have “a firm grasp” on a Soriono deal. Could be with Oakland.

  • Michael Cerami

    I know everyone’s been saying it but your killin it Brett ! So many updates I never want it to stop! Cool idea for an article/series if this madness ever slows down is showing the chances and desirability that each of the big FA of this offseason will come to the cubs (ie cespedes, Wilson,buehrle, fielder, pujols, soler, darwish etc etc)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, MC. Like the idea – but, yeah, the madness is overwhelming (in a good way).

  • MoneyBoy

    For all the heat TR took from beat writers, columnists, and fans, there was a lot of thinking and planning going on … quietly.   I was impressed with the Kaplan interview (surprised about Kenney) and the thought process about refurbishing Wrigley with the long-term in mind.

    The amount of money invested in the front office is not to be discounted.  The Cubs, historically, have had one of the slimmest front offices … this is a dramatic change that can only be for the better!!!

    While I was a Maddux guy, the news conference with Sveum won me over.   Hoyer’s “WOW” comment and Sveum’s no nonsense appraisal from the other dugout were impressive.

    Seligdorf completely screwed the pooch on drafting … but the smartest guys in the room will find a way to take advantage of the new rules.

    Very impressed overall … and today’s move, while “small”, is a real solid start on re-tooling a dreadful roster.

  • ramin

    how many red bulls have u had brett it seems evreytime i come back here theres a new story, u sir r ridicilous

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I do what I can. Just trying to keep my head above water and not let anything big slip through the cracks…

      • ramin

        just read that tje cubs n Oakland r discussing a soriano trade

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Interesting. Got a link?

          • JB88

            John Arguello wrote about on Cubs Den this afternoon.

            • ramin

              ya thats where i got it from its an interesting one

          • MoneyBoy

            Brett … here’s what I found out about the A’s and Sori …

            Matsui is 37, made $4.25mm and is a FA.  The A’s have said they will not re-sign Willingham, who made $10mm last year.

            While it’s not known how much $$ the A’s will spend (given that, even with revenue sharing, they lost money last year) it does make some sense for the A’s to take on Sori as DH.

  • Miguel Ramirez

    I’m with you ACE, when it comes to showing love on all accounts to the Ricketts. Theo and the boys on the other hand, of course I want them to do well, don’t get the Benifit of the dought in Chicago…………..yet

  • ramin

    pace urself brett its going to b a busy offseason

  • ari gold

    Brett, in regards to the CBA agreement. What’s to stop the Cubs from drafting someone, then paying them the recommended slot bonus. But then giving them a large minor league salary? For example, if they drafted Maples this next year. They could give him a $100k bonus, but then just pay him $500k per year in the minors.

    • Pat

      Minor league contracts are fixed. They all make the same amount.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        That’s correct. It’s a collectively-bargained-for wage.

        • Andrew

          I’m curious what the loopholes are going to be. It’s going to be very interesting to see how some teams (hopefully the Cubs included) find ways to spend amateur dollars without getting penalties.

          I know that there are limits on international signings and on spending on the draft, but what’s to keep a team from renegotiating those within-the-limits contracts after year 1 (with a “handshake” agreement while signing the intial agreement that it’ll be renegotiated after the player is in the system and no longer technically a draft pick or international signee)? Is there a chance that we’ll see more guys (I guess technically on the domestic side) be undrafted free agents? Is that even possible in baseball? If so, would those guys be restricted to the limitations that draft picks are?

          I’m rambling, but surely there is going to be some loophole that we’ll all be aware of 4 years from now; Some random way to get a player into your organization outside of the normal routes. And I’m confident that the new Cubs front office has the brains to find the loop hole and take advantage of it…

  • Oswego Chris

    Cross off the Angels as a trading partner for Soto….

    • ramin

      wa happen

  • ramin

    wtf angels got iannetta for Tyler chatwood

    • Lou

      Yeah, we needed Chatwood, I believe. Could have gotten him for Soto or Marmol. Damn. Well, there’s always the Rays for Soto and we get Niemann or Davis.

      • ramin

        i think it will take soto and a low level prospect to get neimann or davis

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That was my reaction as well. Chatwood seems a really steep price to pay for Iannetta (whose overall value I’d put at far below Soto’s…).

  • ramin

    y couldnt we pull off that trade we couldve used him

  • http://www.calliopevoices.com EtotheR

    Not enough articles today.

    Slacker. Lollygagger.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Boom. Article’d.

  • ramin

    Mitch moreland got surgery on his right wrist, does that hurt the chance of cubs awuiring him in a trade for garza

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