An Offseason Budgetary Reminder: The Cubs Saved a Whole Lotta Money in Their Trades This Year

Aside from that fleeting moment of joy when the Cubs were in first place near the end of June, most of our attention and hope for the next competitive Cubs team came long after the Trade Deadline, and now revolves largely around the expectedly ample payroll space that should be available this offseason. The Cubs can be competitive in 2022, but it’s gonna take some smart, but sizable, spending this offseason.

We haven’t dug into the nitty-gritty just yet, but my back-of-the-napkin math (including the early arb-estimates, a full 40-man roster, and all player benefits/insurance) has the Cubs’ 2022 payroll right around $75 million as presently constructed. That leaves a LOT of room to spend, even if the Cubs decide to ramp back up to their previously levels “intelligently” … (a.k.a. slowly).

But another component of this discussion has seemingly gone overlooked. I’m not saying it’s a MAJOR portion of the discussion, but it’s at least worth noting shortly in a post today. And that’s how much the Cubs have *saved* this past season in terms of dollars they had previously planned to spend. We are talking about budgets, after all, and last year’s was not blown out.

Remember, the Cubs traded away nine big league players in July, and while not every deal made a significant financial impact, the sum of the total dollars saved is likely much more than you realize.

The trades involving Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez, Trevor Williams, Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera, Joc Pederson, Andrew Chafin, and Jake Marisnick, even after accounting for money the Cubs ate to facilitate better prospect returns, saved the Cubs roughly $19.3 million in the 2021 budget by my calculation. And remember, both Jed Hoyer and Crane Kenney repeatedly stated earlier in the year that the organization had the ability to add payroll during trade season if the team’s performance justified it. So it’s not as if the trade savings were necessary to meet the expected budget. It was just straight up savings.

(Heck, if you want to take a step further, you could add the $10 million saved by Theo Epstein’s early resignation. To that end, specifically, the Cubs would likely point to the fact that Jed Hoyer was promoted into Epstein’s job with a raise and that the rest of those particular savings were used to retain front office personnel they’d otherwise “have to” let go … but I’d just as quickly point to the fact that they didn’t hire a GM until, well, just now and laid off 100+ employees in the wake of the pandemic anyway … so let’s just call it a wash and settle on that $19.3 million worth of player-only savings.)

So what do we do with this information? Well, without knowing precisely what the Cubs have in mind for a 2022 payroll, it’s difficult to get too specific, but we can use their own comments and history to draw some general conclusions.

For example, do you remember the Cubs’ failed pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka back in 2014? After missing out on that big-money international free agent, then-Cubs president Theo Epstein discussed the concept of rolling over those previously earmarked funds into future additional spending. That also tracked with Tom Ricketts’ frequent refrain of how the finances work: every dollar that comes into the organization, after expenses, goes right into the baseball operations budget.

So, in theory, that should all be true for the $19.3-ish million that was saved in trades this year.

That doesn’t mean you can take the 2022 expected payroll (whatever that is) and bump it by $19.3 million. It might not be one-to-one like with payroll in a single year. But what it *SHOULD* mean is that baseball operations should have significant extra flexibility – almost $20 million worth – to spend how it sees fit over the next several years. Spread it out over development needs? OK. Sign a couple extra players for 2022? OK, that’s fine, too. However. Whatever. The point is only that it was money saved that should, in theory, be available to Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins.

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.

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Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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