To be sure, the Cubs’ TV network announcement came after yesterday’s Spring Training press conference, but, given that the Cubs have signaled the revenues from the TV network might not ramp up for a few years, I don’t know that the announcement fundamentally changes the baseball budget.
That is to say, Theo Epstein’s comments still stand, when he was asked whether the Cubs might try to go after a big-time free agent still out there on the market. Although Epstein indicated the Cubs are still in contact on some relievers, he all but completely closed the door on a big-time signing.
“I think we’ve been really clear this winter about sort of the landscape we’re operating in, and the different areas that we can improve the team and the different resources available to us,” Epstein said. “[About] how we’d have to be sort of creative and value-based and try to tackle all areas that we could in an artful way. This probably wasn’t going to be a winter where we threw money at problems. I’m not going to talk about any specific free agent or class of free agents, but I think you can sort of extrapolate the approach we’ve taken so far this winter is probably, going forward, what’s most realistic for us.”
In other words, the Cubs aren’t hiding the ball: they don’t have the flexibility in the baseball budget to sign a pricey contract right now. We can contend that seems a very short-sighted organizational decision, given the rarity of free agents like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, given the depressed market, and given the Cubs’ competitive window. I … probably would contend those very things. But this is the reality.
Now I just hope the Cubs can add one more potentially impactful reliever, and surprise with a defensively-inclined veteran back-up catcher.