Epstein: 'More Than Enough Resources To Win'

Theo Epstein has maintained the $206-million luxury tax threshold isn't a worry.

Bruce Levine
January 08, 2019 - 12:13 pm
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein

Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports

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(670 The Score) While president of baseball operations Theo Epstein reiterated Saturday that the Cubs aren't constrained by the $206-million luxury tax threshold in an offseason of inactivity, it continues to be clear that they'll have to be creative to add in any meaningful way in free agency.

As currently constructed, the Cubs are already projected to surpass the luxury tax threshold when projecting for arbitration raises. Teams that surpass the luxury tax mark for the first time must pay a 20-percent tax on all overages. It's not that tax that's a concern for the Cubs but instead "traditional budgeting" for baseball operations, Epstein said on Inside the Clubhouse.

As the Cubs assess their options, what they don't want to do is clutter the roster with duplications at positions that are already expensive. Right fielder Jason Heyward is still owed $106 million over the next five years, so adding premier free agent Bryce Harper on a long-term contract doesn't make baseball sense for the Cubs. So the Cubs would need to move Heyward to make an unexpected late run at Harper.

"You try to put the best baseball team on the field with the budget you do have," Epstein said. "That is what we have every year. We have more than enough resources to win. That is the way we are going to continue to approach it."

The Cubs need to add depth to their bullpen and would also like to add more slugging to their lineup. Of course, Epstein has also preached time and again that internal improvement is of the utmost importance for the 2019 Cubs, particularly in that power department. 

Complicating matters for the Cubs in potential trade market activity is that many of their core players are coming off down seasons, thus limiting their value.

"You have to take an honest look at the point and time where you are at," Epstein said. "When you have a lot of guys coming off of good years, you tend to have more flexibility on trades you can make, moving salaries, moving young players at a point when their value is high. When you have some critical players coming off of down years, that is not a time where there is a tremendous amount of flexibility if you don't have a lot of room left on your payroll. Sure, you can talk about reshuffling and moves to rid yourself of money and add money. There are offseasons where you are set up to be really active. There are offseasons where you have to work really hard to make even the smallest pieces fit.

"We have been working hard on getting the team and personnel geared up for 2019."

The only addition to the Cubs' 25-man roster this winter has been utility infielder Daniel Descalso, though there remains time for that to change as free agency moves slowly. Epstein has challenged every level of the organization to be better.

"We are working hard to make some improvements," Epstein said. "I am being honest with you when I say the majority of the improvements will come from this group working hard with our players, staff and whole organization to have our really talented players play up to their level -- something not all of them did last year."

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