We’ll keep this post short and sweet, because despite some new information to share, I’m not sure the Cubs saved enough in their arbitration settlements today to pay for a shiny new Bryce Harper this weekend.
But they did “save” some money, at least against the estimates we had in place originally (about $2.7 million). Here are the Cubs’ payroll figures, both in the actual dollars they’ll pay out in 2019, and the payroll for the purposes of the luxury tax calculation:
By these estimates, which have been updated to include the roster turnover and arbitration raises, the Cubs payroll for luxury tax purposes currently sits BENEATH the second tier of penalties ($226M) – although, unlike the third penalty, which imposes draft-related consequences (your top pick drops 10 spots) on top of more tax payments, the second tier is all about money – and that means staying beneath it should not be a particular priority once you’re already over the first tier (the additional payments are just not that serious).
Of course, that matters very little anyway, because some of the estimated club control salaries throughout the roster could bump that $223.3M figure up and over the $226M mark, as could in-season escalators and/or bonuses – to say nothing of any new additions to the roster either this winter or at the trade deadline. In all likelihood, the Cubs will sign a few more players this offseason, which, even if they’re of the extremely cheap variety, should put them over that second tier, and well on their way to the $246M third and final tier, anyway.
When you look at the actual 2019 payroll, you’ll notice that it’s a lot lower, but I don’t want to mislead you: That’s primarily due to my exclusion of health and pension benefits. Although the Cubs still have to pay those actual dollars this year, they’re usually excluding when you’re talking about roster payroll – so if you see people saying the Cubs payroll is around $207M this year/right now, that’s why.
And listen, that’s a HUGE number compared to years past and the rest of the league, and it’s likely to go up further before we reach the other end of the season. The Ricketts Family and the business operations department have delivered the largest payroll – by any measure – in Chicago Cubs history and they deserve credit for that. I don’t think you can say they’re being “cheap.”
… And yet I still think, strategically, not adding to this roster in significant ways (bullpen, backup catcher, an impact bat) would be a poor decision. But that’s a story for another day. For now, those are the numbers. We’ll update this again if anything significant changes.