How would you really know for sure whether rumors of, and allusions to, limitations on new spending were true? Well, you could wait until the end of the offseason and see what happens, since every offseason if full of conflicting, surprising, and not infrequently totally bogus rumors. But who wants to wait that long?
So, as we sit here today, what would be some of the best evidence that the Cubs aren’t just setting a smokescreen when leaks get out about them not spending over the top luxury tax tier, or when Jed Hoyer says the team will focus more on trades than top free agents? Well, even if you weren’t inclined to accept the comprehensiveness of the rumors, and even if you weren’t willing to take Hoyer at his word, I would submit that one of the best ways you could tell would be by hearing from agents around the league. If the Cubs aren’t seriously engaging with them at this point, then you’re going to know it’s a good bet they won’t be shopping aggressively in the top tier of free agency.
If the Cubs are playing possum for Harper etc then they're doing a heck of a job because even other agents (not Boras) at the meetings don't believe they will be spending big. Time will tell.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) November 9, 2018
It’s not really realistic to believe that the Cubs would be heavily in on the top names, but not reaching out to the agents. And if the Cubs are reaching out to the agents, those agents would have no incentive to share a belief that the Cubs won’t be spending, because that doesn’t help their clients. When speaking anonymously, these guys aren’t in a position to shame an ownership group like Scott Boras tries to do publicly.
Again, it’s wholly possible that the combination of the Cubs being coy and semantics with what constitutes “spending big” are doing a lot of work here, and we’ll all be pleasantly surprised in the coming weeks. But for me, until and unless there are rumors to the contrary, it’s reached the point where I think you’ve gotta just accept the weight of the evidence, and also take the Cubs at their word: they are not currently planning to go nuts on free agents this offseason and spend well past the top luxury tax tier.
Does that mean, definitively, they can’t be in on guys like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado? No. But it does mean – as we surmised weeks ago (so it’s not like I can act like I’m shocked right now) – that doing so would require getting really, really creative to move out some other salary.
I don’t like it. But that’s where we are.