With the Cubs emergence as a big spending, powerhouse franchise over the past four seasons thanks to the commitment of the Ricketts family ownership and the success of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer led front office, no player acquisition move seems to be outside the realm of possibility.
This new reality has fans dreaming about the Cubs signing free agent to be Bryce Harper this coming offseason. But would that be a smart move for the Cubs as an organization?
They still have to sign their own players such as Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Kyle Hendricks, Carl Edwards and others to long-term contracts, which will send their already record-level payroll soaring even further into uncharted territory. A look at the current payroll and my offseason projections have the Cubs currently at $188 million in 2018 salary with approximately $8-15 million coming off the books. That depends on club and player options, arbitration numbers and potential decisions to non-tender players, but does not include arbitration decisions on several players that could actually increase the payroll from 2018 before the Cubs make one offseason move to strengthen their major league team.
Adding a player the caliber of Bryce Harper is a no brainer from a talent standpoint. Would he make the Cubs better on the field? Absolutely. Would he make them even more appealing to potential advertisers and would he help increase TV ratings? No question about that.
However, to fit him in, the Cubs would have to move someone of substance off the roster to give him a position in their lineup. It will take a hard-to-fathom scenario where the Cubs could move their current right fielder Jason Heyward and his massive contract to open up space for Harper. Could they attempt to trade Albert Almora or Ian Happ and then plan on playing Heyward in centerfield to open up right field for Harper? Sure, but that does not give you any salary relief off of your massive payroll.
The Cubs will soon be announcing a new TV deal which should be worth in the billions of dollars and will make them a massive heavyweight in the sport. The checklist of business moves that Crane Kenney first presented to Tom Ricketts in 2009 when he and his family purchased the franchise from the Tribune Company is nearly complete and has been nothing short of a grand slam home run for the bottom line. That deal combined with some bold and creative moves by Epstein and his front office could create a path to seeing Bryce Harper in a Cubs uniform.
Would I sign Bryce Harper if I was the owner? Armed with a huge TV deal and seeing the success of all of the upgrades in an around Wrigley Field I would do all I could to add a charismatic young star to a very talented team that has a wide open window to win the World Series again. There will be a time when the Cubs will need to rebuild and the payroll will come back to earth but now is not that time.
I say get creative Theo and find a way to sign Bryce Harper. Cubs baseball would move to another level and the impact it would have on the bottom line just might pay for the contract itself.