A few weeks ago, I took a look at the Cubs payroll commitments over the past two off seasons. We discussed how their $276.25 million binge on four free agents in 2016 followed an equally impressive $191 million (plus Miguel Montero’s ample contract) binge on six free agents in 2015. If you recall, the 2015 figure was the third most free agent spending in baseball, while the 2016 commitment was the greatest sum in baseball.
The Cubs, so far, have spent a ton of money this (and last) off season, but it’s not over yet. There are still several, very legit free agents left on the board – Ian Desmond, Dexter Fowler, Yovani Gallardo, David Freese, Austin Jackson, Tyler Clippard, and Mat Latos among them – and, thus, plenty of money to be spent. Still, for the time being, the Cubs remain on top.
According to the list, here at MLBTR, the Cubs have spent the most, with $276.76 million committed this offseason. That number comes in just barely ahead of the second place Tigers ($272.26 million), but well ahead of the third place Giants ($251 million) and fourth place Red Sox ($230 million).
So then, let’s recap…
Over the past two seasons, the Cubs have committed $467.25 million in future free agent dollars. The next closest team, the Red Sox, committed an equally impressive, but much lower $426 million. After that, though, the drop off is considerable. The third most spending team, the Tigers, have committed $342 million over the past two seasons. So if you’re reading that correctly, you’ll note that the third most spending team in baseball over the past two seasons committed over $100 million less than the Chicago Cubs did over that same stretch. (And, again, that’s not counting the sizable Miguel Montero contract the Cubs took on.)
Moreover, despite spending the third most money in the 2015 offseason, the Cubs are the top increasing team in payroll – year over year – in 2016, according to Jeff Passan:
Year-over-year est. payroll % gain:
1) Cubs: 34.6%
2) Mets: 32.2%
3) Astros: 21.4%
4) Cards: 17.2%
5) Tigers: 14%https://t.co/jPRJOJ7WFn
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 29, 2016
There’s plenty in that article by Jeff Passan, so give it a look. For example, you’ll learn that MLB teams have guaranteed roughly $2.5 billion(!) to free agents this offseason, pushing the total payroll commitments for all 30 teams up to about $4 billion. The new commitments this offseason shattered the previous record of approximately $1.8 billion (2013-2014) and serve to remind folks of the league-wide record revenues approaching $10 billion in 2016.
Also, in Passan’s article, you’ll find the overall payroll projections for the upcoming season. Despite remaining mostly and entirely out of free agency respectively, the Dodgers and Yankees remain atop the list of projected payroll. The Chicago Cubs find themselves seventh on the list (with $162 million*), just behind the Angels, Giants and Tigers and ahead of the Rangers, Nationals and Cardinals.
Think about that for a second. After years of payroll shedding, and absence from free agency, the Cubs are back around the top tier of big market teams – without a big TV deal, either. Furthermore, they might never enter into that Yankee/Dodger stratosphere of spending, relative to the other teams in the league, so seventh on the list is pretty damn close to where they should be, even after the long-term money does start rolling in.
*(If seventh (and $162 million) strikes you as exceedingly high, you’re correct. If you recall, that number is calculated for luxury tax purposes. Essentially, that means that the calculation took into consideration each individual contract’s AAV. Brett recaps the dilemma that presents, here, but it’s good to know. Still, every team has similar issues with their payroll calculations, so, on the whole, the relative positioning of the Cubs is significant. The Cubs are seriously spending, y’all.)