Cubs

What not paying the luxury tax means for Cubs and Alex Cobb

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USA TODAY

What not paying the luxury tax means for Cubs and Alex Cobb

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Cubs are not projected to pay the luxury tax this year after staying under Major League Baseball’s $195 million threshold, a source with knowledge of the team’s financials said Monday, a significant development as they chase high-profile free agents and reload for another World Series run.

As the general manager meetings opened at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, a USA Today report incorrectly identified the Cubs as one of six teams expected to pay the competitive balance tax in 2017, which can have consequences in the draft and on the international market.

But the Cubs are now looking at a calculation around $183 million for this season, minimizing a variable if they sign someone like pitcher Alex Cobb, who is expected to turn down the one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Tampa Bay Rays and has expressed interest in reuniting with manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey in Chicago.

In this scenario, the potential cost for the Cubs to acquire Cobb would now include giving up their 2018 second-round draft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool.

As part of the collective bargaining agreement, if the Cubs had exceeded the luxury tax and signed Cobb, they would have lost their second- and fifth-highest draft picks and $1 million from their international bonus pool.

This status also means that if Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta and All-Star closer Wade Davis decline their qualifying offers and sign elsewhere as free agents, the Cubs will receive two third-round draft picks.

The Cubs had a 20-percent luxury tax on last year’s championship bill, with the Associated Press reporting the payment was just under $3 million. If the Cubs had crossed the threshold for a second straight season, their tax would have risen to 30 percent, and then escalated to 50 percent if it happened for a third consecutive year.

But now the penalty level would be reset back to 20 percent – just in time for what is shaping up to be a spectacular class of free agents next winter.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Yu Darvish, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa and more

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Yu Darvish, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa and more

Tuesday on Sports Talk Live, David Kaplan along with Chris Bleck, Rich Campbell and Jordan Bernfield discuss:

            -the posibility of the Cubs signing Yu Darvish and the need for one more pitcher in the rotation

            -Jim Thome looking like he'll be inducted into Cooperstown tomorrow

            -Sammy Sosa's Hall of Fame chances

            -Corey Crawford back to working out as the Hawks losing continues

            -DeMarcus Cousins with a game for the ages, but is his baggage worth signing him?

            -Do the Eagles have a chance of beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl?

Day after reported offer to Yu Darvish, now Brewers have trade offer for Christian Yelich, too?

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USA TODAY

Day after reported offer to Yu Darvish, now Brewers have trade offer for Christian Yelich, too?

The Milwaukee Brewers apparently mean business.

How much that business will pay off in superstar players remains to be seen, of course, but a day after the Cubs' division rivals to the north reportedly made a contract offer to free-agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish, there's a report out there that they also have put together a trade offer for Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich.

There's been plenty of discussion involving Yelich this offseason as a trade target for just about every team in the game. The Marlins — and more specifically their new regime led by Derek Jeter — sparked speculation that they'll deal just about anyone after trades that shipped Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon out of South Florida. That fueled guesses that Yelich would be next considering how attractive a trade candidate he is, with five seasons of major league success under his belt (including a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger) and a desirable contract that keeps him under team control for another five seasons.

So of course it's no surprise that any team, including the Brewers, would have "strong interest" in acquiring Yelich. The Brewers, however, might be a more attractive trade partner than most considering their rebuilding efforts that have produced a bunch of young talent the Marlins might find appealing. And with the Brew Crew advancing their timeline last season and becoming unexpected competitors with the Cubs in the National League Central, adding a player of Yelich's caliber could change the dynamics in the division.

Social media is home to plenty of Cubs fans who'd like to see Yelich land on the North Side, seeing an opportunity to upgrade in the outfield after less-than-ideal 2017 campaigns from the likes of Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist. But after the Cubs' own wildly successful rebuild and last summer's trade with the White Sox, the minor league cupboard isn't as fully stocked as it used to be, and that could make crafting a return package difficult. That is, if the Cubs were even interested in acquiring Yelich in the first place. They're pretty happy with their already populous outfield.

The team across town has been involved in plenty of online speculation regarding Yelich, too. But while the White Sox have a tremendous amount of minor league talent, they might not be far enough along in their rebuild to part with any of their highly rated young players until they know exactly what they have.

The Brewers, for what it's worth, had six of the top 100 prospects in baseball as of MLB Pipeline's most recent (and soon to change) rankings: the Nos. 13, 59, 81, 82, 86 and 97 guys. Is that enough to fetch Yelich? And is Yelich enough to put the Crew on even footing with the Cubs in 2018 and beyond? And what if Darvish takes the Brewers up on their offer?

All valid questions. But the biggest question involving the Brewers: Who's going to sponsor the sausage race?