With the renewal members of the 40-man roster (the guys with between zero and three years’ service time) all now under contract for 2012, the Chicago Cubs’ payroll for the expected 25-man roster is largely set. From a variety of sources, we can piece together that the Cubs’ payroll is between $110 and $112 million, a drop from last year’s $125 million mark, and a substantial drop from the $147 million the team spent in 2010.
The $110/$112 million figure is the lowest for the Cubs since 2007, and includes a number of costs for players not actually on the Cubs ($15+ million for Carlos Zambrano, $5 million for Carlos Pena). The actual, on-field payroll is going to be just about $89/$90 million, the lowest it’s been since 2005. The figure would have put them at just 14th in baseball last year, despite being in the third largest market.
The number is, at first blush, strikingly low. But there are obviously reasons, the biggest of which is the turnover of the roster, and the lack of a major free agent signing. Given the Cubs’ likely chance of competing this year, even with a major addition or two, I can’t complain about the lack of spending on payroll.
Tom Ricketts has said that his family plans to put every dollar that comes in the door back into the organization, so the drop in payroll would suggest an offsetting increase somewhere else.
So, where’s the “rest” of the money going?
Well, you might not be crazy about the answer(s), but it’s ultimately beneficial to the organization. A chunk went to Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and the multitude of front office additions. A chunk went to the Cubs’ new technology solution. A chunk is being used to make various improvements to the Cubs’ minor league facilities. A chunk is being used for the renovations to right field at Wrigley. A chunk is being used for the new facility in the Dominican Republic. The McDonald’s property across from Wrigley Field was technically purchased by the Ricketts family (as opposed to the Cubs), but who knows what its ultimate use will be? It could end up being used for the Cubs, and, thus, paid for by the Cubs. There’s also money undoubtedly being held back to try and sign Jorge Soler, and perhaps other international prospects before the CBA changes everything in July.
We also have to acknowledge the very real possibility that the Cubs’ revenue took a hit last year (and is expected to take another hit this year), so the total dollars that the Ricketts family has to put back into the organization might be reduced.
Finally, even if the drop in revenue, combined with the new “other” spending, doesn’t entirely explain the successive drops in payroll over the past two years, I’m still not going to be critical. I can’t see how it would be in the Cubs’ best interests to spend just for the sake of spending. I think it’s fair to assume – trusting in the goodwill of the Ricketts family as both stewards of the organization and as fans who want to see the Cubs win – that whatever “profit” is banked this year will be made available to help the organization down the road.