Last we checked, the Chicago Cubs had spent the most free agent dollars in baseball this offseason.
If fact, their $276.25 million commitment to future payroll obligations in 2016 means that the Cubs were near the top of the pack for each of the last two offseasons – in 2015, they committed $191 million to free agents, third most in baseball.
Ownership promised that the funds would be available when the time was right to spend, and they have certainly followed through on that pledge. So, with the last two offseasons combined, it should be no surprise to learn that the Chicago Cubs project to have about the sixth highest Opening Day payroll in baseball this year.
In an article for FanGraphs, Craig Edwards attempted to project the Opening Day payrolls – and some similar year after year graphs – for each Major League team. To calculate each team’s total, Edwards included “dead money” being paid to other teams, as well as minor league minimum salaries for teams with incomplete rosters. This type of exercise is never quite perfect (for example, because of contract structure peculiarities and/or unique distribution of signing bonuses), but it can give you a general idea of where each team stands relative to each other.
Following those four teams, you finally get to the third tier, which houses, among others, the Chicago Cubs. Sandwiched by the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Angels, the Cubs’ projected Opening Day payroll in 2016 is roughly $155 million dollars. It is a healthy amount of money, and, because of the last two offseasons, the Cubs once again find themselves among the most spending teams in baseball for the first time in a while.
After a missing out on Jason Heyward and David Price, the Cardinals had a relatively quiet offseason. With their biggest commitment going to Mike Leake – five years/$80 million – the Cardinals project to be eleventh overall in 2016 Opening Day payroll, while the Pirates (21) Reds (24) and Brewers (29) rounded out the rest of the NL Central.
Later on in the article, Edwards includes several other notable graphs. The most interesting to Cubs fans will be the relative change in payroll from 2015 to 2016. At the very top of this list, you’ll find the Chicago Cubs. As we already know, their $276.25 million in payroll commitments (more like $284.5 million, with the subsequent swap of Dexter Fowler ($13M) and Chris Coghlan ($4.8M)) was tops in baseball.You might be surprised to see the Dodgers at the far opposite end, having shed roughly $30 million in payroll from 2015 to 2016 (even though they still have the highest total for this season). Rounding out the rear are three rebuilding teams in the Reds, Brewers, and Phillies.
And lastly, I’d like to share a bit about two former rebuilding teams that now project to be quite good in 2016. According to Edwards, the Cubs and Astros have the biggest positive payroll change in 2016, when compared against payroll obligations from 2013-2015. Although both teams were “tanking,” “rebuilding,” following “The Plan,” or whatever else you’d like to call it for some time, they’ve since increased their payrolls by more than any other team in baseball over the past few years.
You see, rebuilding is just step one. Eventually, you have to put your money where your mouth is, and that is exactly what the Chicago Cubs have done.