“I’m not trying to lower expectations, but … ”
Well, you know where that sentence is going. Theo Epstein spoke to the media before last night’s frustrating, issue-highlighting loss to the Brewers. Among the topics: what are the Cubs going to be doing in these final few days before the Trade Deadline?
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 27, 2019
There are only so many ways Epstein can say “our budget is completely tapped out,” and he said them all in a single breath: Craig Kimbrel used up a ton of their budget space. That counts, financially, as a deadline deal. Other moves might be off-the-radar cheap ones like Holland. We won’t be disappointed if we can’t do a “big” deal. We’re trying to get better “if we can.” We have internal options (that one shows up in the quote at ESPN). He didn’t say it in this breath, but he may as well have added, since it was announced then, that Ben Zobrist potentially returning in September is also a financial issue.
Although this Cubs front office doesn’t give away specifics, they are pretty darn transparent when it comes to big picture stuff like this. When they say – in no uncertain terms – that the budget is tapped, then the budget is tapped. Is some of this a matter of not giving up any leverage by saying you have tons of cash to spare? Sure. But it can’t be all that, because in saying this, you’ve also given every trade partner that *does* have financially flexibility a license to up their prospect request.
So what does all this mean? Well, your expectations should be lowered, even if Epstein says he’s not trying to do that.
Adding Nick Castellanos and his $4 million remaining? Not going to happen unless the Tigers eat virtually all of that (which they aren’t going to do without a really significant prospect return – perhaps too significant). The $800,000 or so left on reliever Chris Martin’s deal with the Rangers? Even that might be too much without getting some coverage – again, the price tag goes up. You get the idea.
The Cubs are going to have to think long and hard about how they could get creative and move salary out. We’ve talked about the ability to trade away Tyler Chatwood to save some money – in this market, I do think they could do it. There are teams out there that would take a chance on him the final two months plus another season if they were only paying a few million bucks. But is that worth it to the Cubs? Do they need the starting pitching depth in Chatwood more than they need to save some cash to add a different reliever or a bat? Tough call.
I have no doubt the Cubs are trying to trade Addison Russell at this point to save whatever money they can. He’s owed a little over $1 million the rest of the way, and maybe some team out there would pick that up for the chance to see if a change of scenery works, and then they get him via arbitration for two more years.
I know it sounds crazy to be nickel and diming about this money when THE CUBS HAVE SERIOUS FREAKING NEEDS, but this is the reality of the situation. Rail against ownership all you like, but the budget is here, it’s tight, and it ain’t changing. Epstein could not have made that more clear.
Let’s hope the front office can get really creative in the coming days.