Checking in on Cubs Long-Term Payroll After a Couple of Extensions

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Checking in on Cubs Long-Term Payroll After a Couple of Extensions

Chicago Cubs

Well, it took longer than expected, but the Chicago Cubs were able to extend both Nico Hoerner (three years, $35 million) and Ian Happ (three years, $61 million) this spring/summer. Those deals, combined with a pretty busy offseason, has changed the the medium-term financial outlook of the organization. Thought you might be interested in a little check-in.

In case you forgot, here’s a look at some of the recent deals that will impact 2024 and beyond…

  1. Dansby Swanson, SS – 7-years, $177M
  2. Jameson Taillon, SP – 4 years, $68M
  3. Ian Happ, OF — 3 years, $61M
  4. Nico Hoerner, 2B — 3 years, $35M
  5. Drew Smyly, SP – 2 years, $19M
  6. Trey Mancini, 1B/DH/RF – 2 years, $14M
  7. Tucker Barnhart, C – 2 years, $6.5M

And here’s a look at some of the money coming off the books this coming winter (before buyouts) …

  1. Jason Heyward: $22M (2023)
  2. Rowan Wick: $1.55M (2023)

There’s also a significant collection of bonuses and commitments being paid to players and teams for various buyouts and trades this year (Darvish, Smyly, Villar, etc.) and next year (Bellinger, Hendricks, Gomes, Boxberger). But we’ll try to take a broader, more holistic look at the money the Cubs have committed, and what should be available going forward, using Roster Resources and Cot’s Contracts as our sources.

For 2023, the Chicago Cubs are carrying an estimated real payroll (the money they’re actually paying out) of $187.7M and an estimated luxury tax payroll (the payroll number that matters a little bit more) of $225 million. As a reminder, the first threshold of the Competitive Balance “luxury” Tax (CBT) in 2023 is $233 million. And that number goes up to $237 million in 2024.

After their extensions, Roster Resource has the Cubs’ 2024 estimated payroll looking like $147.8M ($155.6M CBT). However, those two figures include Marcus Stroman’s $21 million ($23.6M CBT), which isn’t necessarily set in stone. In fact, as of today, it seems exceedingly likely that Stroman will opt out of his deal at the end of the season, bringing the Cubs 2024 numbers down to $126.8M (real) and $124.2M (CBT).

And because the Cubs have locked down their most expensive arb player, Nico Hoerner, there’s actually not much more *significant* dollars to estimate there. To put that another way, with a Stroman opt-out feeling likely, it’s safe to assume the Cubs will have close $100M and change to spend this coming offseason before they reach the first tier of the 2024 luxury tax threshold.

At this point, 2025 is even more difficult to project, because the Cubs will obviously sign players this offseason impacting that bottom line. But as of today, those numbers look like $101M (real) and $113M (CBT). In 2026, it’s $97M (real) and $113M (CBT). It’s not until 2027, when all of Seiya Suzuki, Ian Happ, Jameson Taillon, and Nico Hoerner can reach free agency simultaneously, that the next big drop occurs: $46M (real), $48M (CBT). Though it’s also fair to assume that in addition to many new free agents, the Cubs will also have more arbitration payments at that point, just given the trajectory of some of their top prospects.

So to sum this all up, the Cubs have added to their books for the next 3.5 years, but there is still some significant money coming off the books this winter (Heyward, Bellinger after his buyout, Hendricks after his buyout, and potentially Stroman, too). That should free them up to spend big this winter if they want, with the next big drop off coming after 2026.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami