Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein yesterday addressed the Wrigley Field renovation deal announcement, particularly as it relates to the expected new revenue streams. While the added revenue streams tied to new advertising, increased fan amenities, more night games, etc. are going to be used to fund the Wrigley renovation, in the long run, they will also provide added revenue to the organization as a whole (especially when paired with renegotiated TV broadcast rights).
And Epstein says we’re going to see the fruits of that revenue directly in the team’s payroll.
“We need revenues to increase in order for us to execute our baseball plan,” Epstein told the assembled media last night, per the Sun-Times. “We expect [revenues to increase] and we have a lot of folks on the business side working hard for that. We’re not where we want to be right now in terms of payroll. As you know, it’s gone down.”
“As we move forward with our baseball plan, eventually [payroll] will go back up. Now that in and of itself won’t be a determining factor in our success. We need to generate a stream of young talent through our farm system. But we want to complement that with some aggressiveness in free agency.”
If that wasn’t on the nose enough, Epstein got very specific when asked further about the payroll situation.
“Our payroll now is third in the division. That’s fine. But it should be first in the division. So [the added revenues associated with the renovation] is one of the ways that we’re going to get there.”
Couple that statement with Tom Ricketts’ pledge that, if the full renovation proposal is approved, the Cubs will win the World Series at Wrigley, as well as Ricketts’ repeated assertion that all revenues in the door will be put back into the organization, and you get a very clear money picture.
At least in terms of what they’re saying publicly, the Cubs intend that money will not be the reason they do not win. Epstein says the payroll should be the highest in the NL Central. Epstein says payroll will go back up. Ricketts says the Cubs are going to win the World Series. Ricketts says every dollar in the door will go back into the organization.
Sure, it could all be just talk. But the talk has gotten mighty specific, and mighty strong. These guys aren’t idiots: they know that the fans will hold them to their words, and that they will be watching the financial story very closely. If payroll doesn’t start to tick up within a few years – aggressively and permanently – fans will remember these statements. And they’ll be angry.
The Cubs’ ownership and front office has now set a clear baseline expectation: if revenues increase over the next several years as they are expected to, there is no reason for the Cubs not to consistently have the top payroll in the NL Central.