As much as this Trade Deadline presents an unprecedented opportunity for teams with budget flexibility to make additions for tiny acquisition costs, I did not expect the Cubs to be among the rare team that would do it. From an owner talking about “biblical” losses to a freshly-launched TV network that missed more than half its season to an inability to generate any game-day revenue, I simply wasn’t expecting the Cubs’ owners to go out of pocket for acquisitions this year. I was still going to point out the opportunity this presents to “buy” prospects and quality players, yes. But I had no expectations.
So, then, when I hear the Cubs’ front office talking about the financial side of things in a certain way, it’s just confirmation: do not expect the Cubs to take on any salary this year beyond the tiniest fraction of a contract.
Theo Epstein (via The Athletic): “The financial picture’s not great. Any time revenues are slashed to the extent they are, that means there are losses. That means, unfortunately, we’re having to potentially cut in other areas that also hit very close to home and are painful. How we weigh all those things is not easy. It’s not something that I can give a blanket answer to. And not something that I can share. It’ll involve conversations right up to the point of when we have to decide on a transaction, and probably right up to the deadline itself …. Just about every team in the industry — maybe every team in the sports world — is over budget in the big picture when you look at what’s happened to revenue. When that happens, you have to weigh any expense, whether it’s a player expense or any (other) expense. You have to weigh taking on any additional expense with the impact — and then put it in the context of the big financial picture — and decide if it’s something that is worth moving forward with.”
Jed Hoyer (via 670 The Score), talking about letting some pro scouting and player development staff go this week: “To have to inform a lot of people that contributed to a lot of wins that we wouldn’t be able to bring them back [after October 31] was beyond painful. We’ve built this thing up and to have to trim down as a result of the fact that revenues are so depressed in 2020 and the forecast for 2021 obviously is not rosy from a revenue standpoint …. Going forward into 2021, we’re going to have to shrink in a number of areas as the revenues are shrinking. I certainly hope that [the job losses are] a blip, where we look at what’s happened in 2020 and what we’re expecting in 2021, and hopefully we look back and this was a short-term revenue blip where we can in 2022 get back to where revenues were before, and get back to the same size front office and player development staff and scouting staff we had. But realistically, in the near-term, this is what we had to do because this is not a small revenue decrease, this is a massive revenue decrease.”
If that’s the way you’re describing things at this moment on the financial side – even if not explicitly talking about player payroll expenditures – it’s fairly inconceivable that the Cubs are just hiding the ball on huge amounts of money they are ready to deploy right now (or even in the offseason). The world would have to change in a dramatic and fundamental way for the expenditure picture to change, and that isn’t going to happen in the next three days.
So, if you’re looking for Cubs moves right now, you can expect them to be close to salary-neutral. That likely means complementary additions to the bench and/or bullpen. It’s conceivable the Cubs could add someone significant if they included a huge prospect return to get the trading team to eat salary, but I’m not sure any of us is eager for that to happen at the moment.