I am going to try to thread the needle on this one …
It is true that, in a perfect sports fan world, the ownership of your favorite sports teams would spend as much as possible every single year on every single player to win every single game, regardless of how that proportion of spending relates to the volume of revenue coming in.
It is also true that, many sports teams out there generate a lot of profit for their respective owners on the direct cash coming in the doors. So, then, I have no beef with the Cubs’ system, which takes the revenue that comes in the door, pays organizational expenses, and then leaves the rest to baseball operations. I happen to know that not only is the Cubs’ baseball operations budget (remember, that’s much more than payroll) in the very top tier of the league in terms of size, but it is also one of the largest budgets on a *relative* basis as a percentage of revenue.
So, although knowing that doesn’t make me inclined to give ownership a pass on everything, it does make me inclined to take a beat before I get all ragey when it comes to the financial stuff. It’s vogue to rip on “billionaire owners,” but I think we can be a little more nuanced than that when it comes, specifically, to the way a baseball payroll sorts out.
I mean, I can’t be the only one who remembers what life was like under Tribune ownership, right?
Against all that backdrop, then, I think it’s fair to point out that, in a situation where the baseball budget was cooked, and fans railed for ownership to just sack up and spend a little more in a competitive window … ownership did exactly that.
As Patrick Mooney reports, “Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts helped close the Castellanos deal by expanding this year’s budget for Theo Epstein’s baseball operations department, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations.”
What it took for the Cubs to close the Nicholas Castellanos deal: https://t.co/FGDpazZ9SL
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) August 1, 2019
As Jed Hoyer told Mooney, “Tom was fantastic. He showed his competitiveness and his belief in this team to stretch and take on some salary to make this team better.” Easy to compliment your boss, of course, but in this instance, can we give some credit? Fans tend to imagine the opposite situation so easily – the one where Hoyer and Theo Epstein have the opportunity to add a certain player, but are pissed that they are being held back because of money – but not so much when the wallet does get opened up.
So, good. Castellanos was the best rental bat available, made perfect sense for the Cubs, and the front office was permitted to make it happen.
If you’re curious about the financial element, I did a little back-of-napkin’ing …
Castellanos is owed about $3.3 million the rest of the way, but the Tigers paid that down to $2.8 million in the trade. The Cubs saved about $600K in the Maldonado/Kemp swap, and saved about $300K in the Edwards/Wieck swap. So, with a tapped budget, the Cubs took on an additional $1.9 million in payroll obligations. But because they’re in the second tier of the luxury tax, that actually means an addition of $1.9 million plus 32% of $1.9 million, or about $2.5 million added to the baseball budget yesterday by ownership.
(ALSO! The third tier of the luxury tax – the top tier – kicks in at $246 million, which the Cubs have started to creep up on. When you go over that top, your first pick in the ensuing draft drops 10 spots. So you would not want to incur that penalty just to add a rental piece, if you could avoid it. So, all the more reason not to take on too much salary at the deadline for a club that isn’t a lock to make the postseason, in my opinion.)