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.