For a couple years now we’ve heard two things with respect to the Ricketts family’s spending proclivities now that they own the Chicago Cubs: (1) whatever money comes in, they intend on spending on the team, and (2) the spending won’t just be on the big-league payroll.
But, until recently, it was hard to put a finger on just how point number two was playing out.
It still might take some time to be sure, be we got a very good indication with this week’s First Year Player Draft, where the Cubs took an inordinately high number of high school and early college prospects, whom folks believe will require a bit of extra cash to sign. Notable among those names are high schoolers Daniel Vogelbach (1B, 2nd Round), Trevor Gretzky (1B, 7th Round), Shawon Dunston, Jr. (OF, 11th Round), and Dillon Maples (RHP, 14th Round).
Better yet, Wilken himself has confirmed that Ricketts told the Cubs’ scouting director that he could consider the checkbook opened, so to speak.
“Tom came out and told us we’ll be more active on the amateur side,” Wilken said Wednesday. “When you feel you have a shot to sign players, it changes the strategy in how you pick. It was like Christmas Day for scouts.”
It’s not exactly an Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder signing, but that decision from Ricketts is incredibly encouraging because (1) it’s the first sign that he’s really putting into place his stated plan to revamp the organization from top to bottom, and (2) it’s the kind of thing that pays big dividends down the road.
The move to spending more money in the draft would be a welcomed one for the Cubs, who’ve ranked just 24th in amateur bonus spending in the last five years. That assumes, of course, that the Cubs continue to be a relative market leader in international spending, and they don’t just shift international dollars to domestic dollars. Yes, I know it’s an unfair system, but hey: the Cubs are one of the big market teams, and if there’s going to be unfairness, better to be on the winning side, right?