Cubs

Competitive Balance Taxes are looming, but the Cubs are still willing to bend the budget

Competitive Balance Taxes are looming, but the Cubs are still willing to bend the budget

Tom Ricketts met with the media on Monday morning to give his usual spring State of the Cubs press conference, and the state of the Cubs is … sorta the same? The Cubs look almost identical to the 84-win, third place team of 2019, but Ricketts’ expectations are far above that. 

“I think we have the best team in our division,” the Cubs’ owner said. “I think we have a really dynamic, exciting new manager. I think the players are going to play very, very hard for David Ross. Barring some kind of crazy injuries, I think we should win our division and get back in the playoffs.”

Considering there’s not a whole lot of on-field news to discuss, much of the 20-minute press conference was focused on the team’s finances, their (lack of) headway towards a television deal with Comcast, and what to expect as teams ramp up for the oncoming round of CBA negotiations. Ricketts talked at length about the club’s perceived battles – or lack thereof, he claims – with baseball’s Competitive Balance Tax (CBT). 

“I think the CBT is a factor that every large market GM has to put into their calculus when they create their teams,” Ricketts said. “I don’t know how much fans know, but it’s not just a financial penalty. It’s a financial penalty that grows over time, for a number of years you’re above the threshold. And then it gets into a player penalty, which you have to be careful to avoid. So like I said, it’s a factor – I don’t think it’s a defining factor – but it’s definitely a factor that every team has to deal with, at least every large market team.” 

Ricketts mentioned that some of this offseason’s planned budget was fronted when the Cubs signed closer Craig Kimbrel to a three-year, $43 million deal towards the end of last summer. He was also adamant that payrolls don’t correlate directly to winning, which is certainly not unfair to claim but also not entirely accurate. He pointed to the Cubs’ baseball budget in 2019, which was, according to him, the highest in the league as to say that the team wasn’t exactly sitting on their hands. While the front office’s inactivity surprised many of the Cubs’ players, Ricketts shot down the idea that something needed to happen for the sake of something happening. 

“I’m not disappointed,” he said. “The fact is that we have a great team, we have guys that are proven winners and verteran players. We have the talent to win our division and go deep into the playoffs. So that’s a good starting place. In terms of big changes, it’s hard. You guys follow the game, it’s not like there’s a lot of player for player swaps anymore. Trades don’t happen like they used to.” 

And while many view the Red Sox-Dodgers player swap that took place literally last week as a concerning sign of baseball’s current economic market heading into the next round of CBA discussions, Ricketts chose not to comment on what he thinks the owners are going to try and bargain for. Instead, he left the door open for activity – even if it means swallowing the rather costly CBT pill. The Cubs were over the CBT last year, and are open to the notion of a second-straight violation if it means making the right move. Penalties for third-time offenders are particularly harsh, though, and Ricketts conceded that it’s that point when spending begins to give ownership pause. 

“Obviously paying large taxes on CBT is really inefficient and not a great use of team resources, so if there’s a way to put a great team on the field and not pay that, then they will,” he said. “But I leave it up to Theo and Jed. 

“Like I said, the CBT thresholds are a piece of the puzzle. They’re something that we’re always mindful of, but they won’t define the situation and they won’t determine the actual player moves.” 

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Joe Maddon has specific plans to watch entire Game 7 of 2016 World Series

Joe Maddon has specific plans to watch entire Game 7 of 2016 World Series

One of the joys of life is basking in our past accomplishments. There’s nothing like recalling great memories with a fond appreciation for what once was.

Joe Maddon’s biggest accomplishment as a big league manager is leading the Cubs to their first championship in 108 years. We’re nearly four years removed from the 2016 World Series, and by now, Maddon has to have watched the series’ grand finale, right? Heck, MLB Network just reaired Games 5 through 7 two weeks ago.

Wrong.

On the latest Baseball Tonight Podcast, Maddon told ESPN’s Buster Olney that he has yet to rewatch Game 7 of the ’16 Fall Classic all the way through. However, the now-Angels manager already is envisioning when that moment will ultimately come.

“It’s one of those things that I think when I’m done, totally done (retired)… when I get settled in, and I’m hanging out in Pennsylvania somewhere,” Maddon said, “I’ll get this 95-inch television by that time with the great surround system. 

“I’ll pop it up there and sit there with a really good glass of red [wine], some kind of delicacy from a local hoagie shop and watch the whole thing.”

Sounds like a plan, Joe. Let us know how your viewing goes.

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Javier Báez catches for Twins' starter José Berríos, looks like a natural

Javier Báez catches for Twins' starter José Berríos, looks like a natural

You gotta think wherever Javier Báez plays on defense, he’s going to succeed. The Cubs infielder has emerged as one of the best shortstops in the game, but we’ve seen him flash the leather at second and third base time and time again.

Heck, if the Cubs put Báez in the outfield, it’d be unwise to bet against his ability to succeed. Based on one video, the same can probably be said about El Mago behind the plate.

MLB Puerto Rico tweeted a video Monday of Báez catching for Twins All-Star starter José Berríos, his brother-in-law. Unsurprisingly, Báez — who played catcher in high school — looks like a natural.

Báez has never caught a big league game, but he was the Cubs’ emergency catcher in 2016 when Kyle Schwarber was sidelined with a knee injury.

The Cubs will never put Báez behind the dish due to the risk of injury, and there's a lot more to the position than catching and throwing. Still, it sure would be fun to see how he’d look back there.

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