Tom Ricketts Says Cubs Needed to Land Dansby Swanson to Win *And* to Show They Aren't "Just Hoarding Cash"

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Tom Ricketts Says Cubs Needed to Land Dansby Swanson to Win *And* to Show They Aren’t “Just Hoarding Cash”

Chicago Cubs

The Athletic has a great piece up about the Billion Dollar Shortstop Class of this past offseason, and the changing financial landscape of Major League Baseball. It’s a good read as you await tomorrow’s Opening Day.

Included within the piece is the anecdote about how Cubs President Jed Hoyer was working the phones at Oracle Park in San Francisco, at Scott Harris’s wedding, trying to close the Dansby Swanson deal. Hoyer told the story at the Cubs Convention, and it’s kinda funny how it all came together.

What wasn’t included in the version Hoyer told was the perspective on closing the deal from Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. When you start talking about nine-figure contracts, ownership is going to be involved at some level, so it’s not surprising or inappropriate that Ricketts was in the loop.

But I was surprised at the quote Ricketts offered about wanting to get the Swanson deal done.

“We needed that for this offseason,” Ricketts told The Athletic. “We needed to not only put the player in the lineup so we have a chance to win, but also just to let everyone know that we’re not just hoarding cash, which was an assumption that some people make.”

That’s definitely the first time anyone associated with the Cubs has acknowledged that at least part of the reason they wanted to land a top free agent this offseason was as a demonstration to the baseball world and to fans that, yes, they are trying to spend. To be sure, the front office has also gone to great lengths to espouse the virtues of signing Swanson, specifically. But they had more than one reason to really, really not want to whiff.

Ricketts has long said that the Cubs’ finances are a closed system: the revenue comes in the door, covers expenses, and anything that is leftover goes to baseball operations. Business president Crane Kenney has referenced funds being rolled over to a future year when not used by baseball operations. These are things that are easy to say, and harder to demonstrate. Signing a $177 million free agent like Dansby Swanson was, in part, a demonstration.

Here’s hoping his glove is also still superlative and the step forward in the bat last year is legit. The financial demonstration is nice, but the player performance matters much more. We’ll keep the demonstration angle in mind for future free agent classes ….

One other Ricketts quote from the piece worth sharing. In discussing the explosion this offseason not only in contract sizes but contract lengths – a new cost of doing business – Ricketts offered what I would say is a clear-eyed perspective on many of the deals: “If there’s a team that just feels like this year is so important to them that they’re willing to take the pain on the back end of a contract, then it’s up to them.”

I don’t know that the statement applies to Swanson as much as some of the other deals, but there’s a reality Ricketts is acknowledging (which likely will apply to Swanson): the aging curve exists. It just does. For the occasional outlier who performs as well at age 33 as he did at age 29, the vast majority of top players are going to give you their best years in the first couple of a monster free agent signing. That’s why, even on a 10 or 11-year deal, the teams pushing the hardest are going to be the ones that see themselves as well-positioned to win immediately.

You just have to hope that the owner of your favorite team *IS* one of the ones willing to “take the pain on the back end of a contract.” The first step is acknowledging that’s how it will almost always shake out when you’re signing a guy deep into his late-30s.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.