It's a pretty simple question with a pretty simple answer. Can the Cubs, one of baseball's wealthiest organizations, afford to keep both Kris Bryand and Javy Baez? Is there room in the infamous budget to make both of the team's homegrown stars Cubs for life?
“There’s certainly money out there. It’s a very, very profitable game," Bryant said, in regards to keep the core together. "It’s just a matter of if they want to. I don’t know, I really don’t. But it would certainly be cool.”
“It’s up to them,” Báez added. “I hope we both stay here. Obviously, we want to keep everyone here because we pretty much have the team that we want."
Then, on Monday, "they" – being Cubs' owner Tom Ricketts – finally talked. So, Tom? You sign their checks, what do you think?
"Well, where we place our resources is a baseball decision," Ricketts said. "That’s Jed and Theo. But I mean, ultimately, we have to look at it from a bigger perspective."
It's been a week since Theo Epstein, David Ross, and Jed Hoyer (he was there too!) addressed the media for the first time this spring, and no one seems to be able to get a straight answer on the team's most-pressing long term concern. It's almost certainly by design, as the Cubs are adamant that speaking on finances publicly creates some sort of competitive disadvantage when it comes to negotiating with players and agents. KB and Báez say it's up to ownership, ownership says it's up to the front office (?), and the front office isn't going to speculate. Terrific! If you're to believe the rumor mill, the team seems marginally closer to an extension with Báez than they are with Bryant, and are maybe – according to some – more focused on moving the latter.
Epstein said Bryant was given no assurances about what the time between now and Opening Day holds, and regardless of Bryant's wishes to be in the loop, Ricketts also doesn't feel that an explicit guarantee is totally necessary.
"I imagine there’s communication between Theo and Kris at some point," Ricketts said. "I think they met yesterday. But a lot of the stuff, what – do you communicate to say that the stuff you saw is a rumor? I mean, I don’t know. Like I said, we love KB. I think he’s ready to go and a full season of a healthy Kris Bryant is something we could really use."
Put aside for a moment the fact that, yeah, that's exactly what you'd communicate. Compare the apparent transparency of an owner who said that the CBT "won’t define the situation" and "won’t determine the actual player moves" vs. what he said when pressed about all of the offseason turbulence surrounding Bryant and the Cubs.
"Well obviously we love KB, he’s a great player and he’s a great teammate," he said. "He’s just a great part of the team. Most of the things that are out there are just rumors and noise. A lot of it is just not true. But with respect to all player decisions, if anything was going down that path, it’d obviously be a baseball decision."
Most of the things out there are just rumors and noise. A lot of it is not true. Can the Cubs' afford to keep Bryant and Báez? Yes. Will the Cubs' make that choice?
"Once again, that’s in Theo’s camp. That’s his decision," Ricketts said. "We’d have to take a look at what that means for us all financially."