No New Payroll Flexibility Available For Cubs

The Cubs may have a low-profile offseason on tap.

Bruce Levine
December 10, 2018 - 11:12 pm
From left, Cubs executives Jason McLeod, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein chat with owner Tom Ricketts.

David Banks/Getty Images

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LAS VEGAS (670 The Score) -- The Cubs certainly have needs to fill this offseason. Bullpen help, a backup catcher with good defensive skills and a middle infielder to assume some playing time at second base are parts of the 25-man puzzle that president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are looking for this winter.

As for money for star free agent Bryce Harper? That doesn't appear to be there for now.

Hoyer made that clear again at the Winter Meetings on Monday evening, when he reiterated a stance that the Cubs had previously expressed at the GM Meetings in November.

"Nothing has changed in that regard," Hoyer said about the team's payroll being maxed out.

What it means is the idea of throwing $350 million at Harper is unrealistic, unless something changes. Already, the Cubs project to have payroll commitments of around $210 million in 2019, which is likely to rank in the top five payrolls in MLB. 

Assuming the Cubs don't receive unexpected added payroll flexibility from the business side of the team, adding veteran, low-cost leadership and smaller pieces on the fringes may be the extent of their offseason moves.

 The Cubs' brass still believes that the core of the team is championship-caliber. They're prodding the coaching staff and players to improve their approach for the 2019 season and show a renewed urgency after the 2018 campaign that slipped away and ended with a National League wild-card game exit.

"I know that this group of players has another gear we can get to that we didn't get last year," Hoyer said. "We spent a lot of time talking about how to get there, so the sooner we can start playing games again, the better. I can't wait to drive to Arizona."

Putting those winning pieces together with the right additions both on the field and in the clubhouse will consume the front office's time over the next two months before spring training begins. Epstein and Hoyer want better leadership to emanate from the bench and clubhouse. They've has talked with David Ross, a special assistant in the front office and a catcher on the Cubs' championship team in 2016, about taking on a more defined role with the team in 2019. 

The Cubs greatly valued Ross' leadership when he was a player. Hoyer also pointed to the exit of outfielder Jon Jay after the 2017 season as another leader whose role couldn't be replaced.

"David Ross's mere presence was helpful to the club," Hoyer said. "I think the guys trust him. The timing of David Ross being on the team was perfect. Our young guys were 21 and 22 years old. He had a strong influence on them. So when he is around, they gravitate towards him. We could not hire anyone from the outside that good (with) that kind of influence. Having him around is really valuable. I think he will have a big impact."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.​