Cubs

Taking a long look at the Cubs payroll

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Taking a long look at the Cubs payroll

MESA, Ariz. One day, Theo Epstein will hold up a Cubs jersey at a stadium club news conference and wonder if this really is the right player at the right time.

The megadeal didnt fit into Epsteins plan this winter, as the Cubs tried to reload and assemble as many young players (and years of club control) as possible, scaling down the big-league payroll to almost mid-market levels.

The financial picture came into sharper focus on Monday when the Cubs agreed to contract terms with all 24 players on their 40-man roster with less than three years of service time in the majors.

That group included Jeff Samardzija (2.64 million), Starlin Castro (567,000), James Russell (512,500), Travis Wood (505,000) and Darwin Barney (500,000).

The rest will make less than 500,000, including expected first baseman and cleanup hitter Bryan LaHair. The major-league minimum is set at 480,000 this year.

It depends on how you do the accounting. But the Cubs are projected to spend around 112 million in major-league payroll this season, according to information gathered from a variety of sources.

That estimate includes the more than 15 million the Cubs are paying the Miami Marlins to take on Carlos Zambrano, the final installment on Carlos Penas pillow contract (5 million) and the 2 million buyout for Carlos Silva (part of the Milton Bradley write-off).

The actual 25-man roster that will be at Wrigley Field on Opening Day could cost around 90 million. Again, these are not exact figures, and should not be confused with the overall budget for baseball operations.

But heres a snapshot of how the Cubs have spent on the big-league team the past several years, according to the USA Today salary database:

2005: 87 million
2006: 94 million
2007: 100 million
2008: 118 million
2009: 135 million
2010: 147 million
2011: 125 million

Chairman Tom Ricketts restructured the organization this offseason to give Epstein a president of baseball operations title. Epstein recruited general manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president Jason McLeod, part of an effort to expand what has historically been one of the smaller front offices in baseball.

The Cubs believe they will have to add more manpower and pay scouts better because of recent changes to the collective bargaining agreement, which will restrict the amount teams can spend in the draft and on international signings.

The roughly 19 million former general manager Jim Hendry pushed the Cubs to spend in those markets last year represented the final talent grab before the labor deal put a cap-and-tax system into place.

Epstein will have to redistribute resources while restocking the farm system. The Cubs could have even more flexibility with the contracts of Ryan Dempster and Marlon Byrd which are worth 20.5 million combined in 2012 falling off the books after this season.

There is also an opposite reaction. Castro who reached the All-Star Game and led the National League in hits at the age of 21 will be eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player and start to see his salary multiply.

Castros agent, Paul Kinzer, was spotted at HoHoKam Stadium over the weekend. The Cubs could consider a long-term extension for their franchise shortstop. Epstein had a track record of buying out arbitration years (see Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz) while running the Boston Red Sox.

Cubs executives used to be obsessed with winning one World Series. They're now trying to build a more sustainable team.

Patience is important, but (so is) urgency, Epstein said at the beginning of spring training. The goal of the 2012 Cubs is to win the World Series. Our goal as an organization is to build an organization that competes on an annual basis in the postseason and gives ourselves a chance to win a World Series.

There arent going to be any shortcuts. Were looking at the big picture and were building this thing the right way.

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

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USA TODAY

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

In Theo Epstein's end of season press conference on Friday he said that any coach Joe Maddon wants back will return in 2018.

Evidently, there's one coach Maddon didn't want back.

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Cubs have fired longtime pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Bosio served as the Cubs pitching coach from 2012-17. He was the team's pitching coach under former managers' Dale Sveum (2012-13) and Rick Renteria (2014), and was retained when Maddon was hired as manager of the Cubs in 2015.

Bosio, who is one of the most respected pitching coaches in baseball, was instrumental in the career resurgence of Jake Arrieta who captured the Cy Young award in 2015, and the development of 27-year-old starter Kyle Hendricks (MLB's ERA leader in 2016).

One reason that could've led to Bosio's firing was the pitching staff's control issues during both the regular season and postseason, which Epstein mentioned during Friday's press conference. The Cubs issued the fifth-most walks (554) in the National League during the regular season and the highest total (53) during the postseason.

As the Cubs hit the market for a new pitching coach, Nightengale mentioned that one name that could be on the radar is former Tampa Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, who parted ways with the organization following the 2017 season.

Hickey served as Maddon's pitching coach in Tampa Bay from 2006-2014.

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.