Chicago Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts does not meet with the media too often, so when he does speak out, it’s a pretty notable thing. Even if, candidly, he is always very careful to defer to baseball operations and not commit to much of anything concrete.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
You already know the big question Ricketts would face this year, especially after the team’s payroll has decreased so dramatically and the business side has talked about rolling over funds into next year: Are the Cubs going to spend a lot of money this offseason or what?
“The ball’s in Jed’s court when it comes to how and where he puts financial resources to work. He’s got a lot of flexibility. So you let him do it. You let him decide what he wants to do …. You guys know how we do it. We figure out our projections. We figure out what it costs to put on games and pay people to run the organization and everything else. And then everything left goes to the baseball guys. Jed has the resources to add people. If he feels like it’s the right person at the right time, he has 100 percent support from me. And I’ll leave it to him.”
There is some money. Jed Hoyer and his crew will decide how to spend it. That’s all.
You’re just not going to get more out of Ricketts after 13 years of owning the team. He (and the front office) is of the mind that nothing good can come from committing sight unseen to a particular volume of spending in a given offseason, and will instead simply say the money is there if the signing is right.
It’s a stock answer at this point, which I understand is not what some fans want to hear, but in practice, it *is* how you want this stuff playing out: make as much money available as possible to baseball operations, and then let the baseball people decide how best to spend it. When owners start getting involved in the day-to-day of baseball decisions, well, we’ve seen in other organizations how well that usually works out.
Also? It’s at least a baseline checkpoint that nothing in Ricketts’ comments jumped out at me as flashing warning signs about MORE limits in spending. I didn’t see any reason to worry that the purse strings are further tightening.
Meanwhile, among Ricketts’ other comments …
In describing this season as a success, and pointing to development steps: “The fact is that you can’t buy a championship team in baseball. You have to build it. And that’s what we’re doing. And in order to build it, you’ve got to take years where you let young guys get at-bats, give them a chance to prove themselves and find out who you actually have to build around. And that’s been what this year is all about. And it’s a success …. There’s kind of a point in your development where you got to let young guys play and see what they have. Some of the guys have really turned out to look like they’re going to be major leaguers for a long time. Secondly, throughout the minors, at every level, there’s been guys stepping up. Some of the guys we traded for last year, some of the guys we drafted or signed over the past few years — there’s a lot of guys that look like they’re going to be major leaguers pretty soon. Thirdly, overall, you guys (in the media) have to admit that our pitching infrastructure has really delivered.”
In a related, and mildly concerning point about the rebuild: “Obviously, following a similar process or strategy as we did 10 years ago, having done it once — and particularly largely with the same people — gives me a lot of confidence that we’ll do it the right way again. So I’m very comfortable with where we’re at and pretty excited about our future.” Given what happened in the wake of the 2016 championship, and the problems that had festered under the hood, I’m not so sure that’s as comforting as Ricketts intended.
(That said, I’d actually disagree that it’s “largely the same people” in charge this time around, as almost all of the top decisions makers in the front office and scouting/player development have turned over since 2013-14. It’s really, mostly, just Jed Hoyer, and then a whole lot of new people he’s brought in or elevated over the past few years. Which I think is a good an appropriate thing, and I see at least some signs that the dramatic scouting and player development issues that showed up last time around may be avoided this time.)