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wallet cashChicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was on the Kap and Haugh show yesterday, sharing interesting thoughts on the Draft and the 2014 Chicago Cubs. To me, it’s all interesting stuff, and worth a listen.

For today, however, I want to highlight one exchange, which I’ll paraphrase:

Dave Kaplan: Do you see yourselves spending some money and being more aggressive (not like the Yankees, but more than last offseason)?

Jed Hoyer: I think it’s probably likely. I wouldn’t say absolutely, but it’s a strong possibility. I look at the Astros as analogous, in that their prospects they called up were about a year ahead of ours, and so I look ahead to next year and the year after as when we’ll have a lot of youth on the field. It’s important to add veterans to that mix as you have young players coming up on the roster. We have to have some guys that can not only perform, but also share some wisdom and teach those young guys how to be big leaguers. That’s going to be a significant focus of our next 18 months.”

The Cubs are going to spend this offseason – more than the $15ish million in new commitments they spent this past offseason, anyway. There’s your confirmation, for the most part. It’s great to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, and now it’s hanging out there for the world to expect and remember. I applaud Hoyer for not dancing completely around the question that is probably at the fore of every single Cubs fan’s mind right now.

The only thing is … did we really even need to hear him say it? Despite the ever-falling Cubs payroll, and the hardline focus on the rebuild, it was pretty obvious that they were going to spend some money this offseason, wasn’t it?

Why do I say that?

  • I’m not going to say it’s obvious that the Cubs will spend because they need to support youngsters coming up in the next couple years.
  • I’m not going to say it’s because they need to spend to show the fans a measure of good faith.
  • I’m not going to say it’s because of the rolled over money from last offseason.
  • I’m not going to say it’s because a window of contention could open as soon as next year if a couple things break right and the right pieces are acquired.
  • I’m not going to say it’s because new revenues are expected to pour in very soon.

I’m going to set all of that aside, even though it is, for the most part, all true.

The reason I believe Hoyer when he says the Cubs will spend this offseason, and the reason I think it’s pretty obvious that they were going to spend at least some money, is actually much less glamorous, and less revelatory about the future of the organization. The Cubs are going to spend some money this offseason because of this:

$53 million.

That’s the amount that the Cubs currently have committed to the roster in 2015, including generous arbitration raises for the guys expected to be tendered. That’s it.

Even if you set aside everything I listed above, and even if you thought the Cubs would merely match their modest 2014 payroll figure ($89 million), they’d still have upwards of $36 million to spend in free agency next year. Just think about that, and think about how “cheap” the Cubs’ payroll is this year.

In a single offseason, $36 million can go a long, long way. And if the Cubs were going to bump the payroll to $100 million? If they were going to include the $20ish million that was rolled over from last year? If they trade Jeff Samardzija or any other arbitration-eligible player this year, lopping off another $5/$10/$15 million from the payroll expectation? The amount available for spending this offseason could actually be enormous, especially when you consider the traditional back-loaded structure of big league contracts.

It’s really not hard to see how the Cubs could be big spenders this coming offseason if they wanted to be. Even if they don’t want to be “big” spenders, it’s going to be virtually impossible for them not to spend a whole lot more money than they have in the recent past.

Does anyone actually expect the Cubs to go into 2015 with a payroll under $75 million? That’s less than the Tampa Bay Rays this year.

So, unless you believe the Cubs are going to head into 2015 with one of the bottom five payrolls in all of baseball, they’re going to have at least $30 million to spend this offseason in 2015 salary commitments. Hell, the median big league payroll in MLB this year is right around $110 million – that’s $57 million more than the Cubs presently have committed for 2015.

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