How much money are the Cubs leaving on the table by not renaming Wrigley Field?
That question was posed following today's announcement from the Chicago White Sox and U.S. Cellular that, while U.S. Cellular is selling its Chicago, St. Louis and central Illinois markets for a reported $480 million to SprintNextel, "U.S. Cellular Field" will remain unchanged. The White Sox signed the original deal with U.S. Cellular in 2003 for 68 million over 20 years, with the agreement paying the White Sox $3.4 million per season for the stadium's name, as well as an agreement to purchase significant advertising with the White Sox each season as a corporate sponsor?
So what about the stadium on the North Side?
Industry sources I spoke with all seem to believe that if a deal were to be completed to change the name it could generate $15-20 million a year, but they all cautioned that it comes with significant risk for the company that puts up the tremendous amount of money that it would take to reach an agreement.
"I can see the Cubs selling a secondary naming rights opportunity or perhaps naming each individual gate entrance to the stadium like the Yankees did. Something like Wrigley Field at 'XYZ park' would work, but the Cubs attract fans who want the Wrigley Field experience and if you change the name and you put in a Jumbotron, etc., how much does it change the experience of going to Wrigley Field, which is one of the last true old-time experiences in sports?" Jon Greenberg said.
One highly placed source who is a former owner who spoke to me on a condition of anonymity estimated that the Cubs are leaving an incredible amount of money on the table by staying at Wrigley Field and not selling naming rights to the stadium.
"There is no doubt in my mind that if the Cubs were willing to leave Wrigley Field and build a state-of-the-art stadium with all of the amenities that fans have come to expect these days, they would be able to make a deal in the range of $20-25 million per year," he said. "However, if I was running a major corporation and I was asked to buy the naming rights to a renovated Wrigley, I would not touch that deal because of the potential for negative backlash from the Cubs' huge fan base who have known that ballpark as Wrigley Field Field for nearly 100 years."
With Anthony Rendon officially joining the Angels, the Nationals have a vacancy at third base.
Washington has options to replace Rendon; Josh Donaldson is still available in free agency, and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant could potentially be had via trade.
The Nationals have reportedly inquired with the Cubs about Bryant, and while they “love” the 27-year-old, their focus is on Donaldson, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The Cubs would likely seek center fielder Victor Robles in a deal, a holdup on Washington's end, Heyman said.
From the Cubs perspective, it would make all the sense in the world to ask for Robles. He’s 22 years old, plays excellent defense (22 DRS in 2019, No. 1 in MLB by center fielders) and is only scratching the surface as a big-leaguer. Robles is projected to be a star, but Bryant already is one. If the Nationals want Bryant badly enough, they’ll have to sacrifice talent in a deal.
On the other hand, it’s easy to understand why Washington would be unwilling to trade Robles, who's under team control through 2024. Bryant will hit free agency after 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he'll hit the open market after next season.
Nonetheless, if the Nationals do engage in Bryant trade talks, you can bet the Cubs will at least ask for Robles in return. A trade could be worked out without him, but for a Cubs team searching for better center field production, you've got to wonder who could be more enticing than Robles.
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With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.
It didn’t take long for Willson Contreras to introduce himself to Major League Baseball. On the first pitch he saw as a big-leaguer, the Cubs catcher cranked a two-run home run to center field — on Sunday Night Baseball, nonetheless.
That moment was a sign of things to come for Contreras, who has since established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball. The 27-year-old holds a career .267/.350/.470 line with a 117 wRC+ and 67 home runs in four seasons. He’s started back-to-back All-Star Games, the first Cubs catcher to do so since Gabby Hartnett (1937-38).
Contreras offers so much to the Cubs besides his bat. His cannon of an arm and athleticism behind the plate are integral to the Cubs controlling opposing run games. His pitch framing is a work in progress, and admittedly, he could improve in this area by throwing behind runners less, ensuring he gets strikes called.
However, back-picking is part of Contreras’ value. He may lose some strike calls by not sticking a frame, but there've been plenty of occasions where Contreras' arm has provided the Cubs with a spark. His boundless energy is unmeasurable, but its importance to the Cubs — who feed off of it — cannot be overstated.
There are areas where Contreras can improve, and that's a scary thought. But he's already is one of the best backstops in baseball and has earned the starting catcher spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team.
Also considered: Welington Castillo, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Geovany Soto