Tom Ricketts On Cubs: 'Key Is To Develop Players'

"You can't really buy teams," Ricketts says. "You have to build them."

Mully & Haugh Show
October 30, 2019 - 8:15 am
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(670 The Score) With the Cubs coming off a disappointing 84-78 season in which they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and let manager Joe Maddon go, chairman Tom Ricketts has a vision for a return to excellence.

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It doesn't involve making the biggest splash in free agency this winter. It revolves around player development.

"The real key is you have to develop players," Ricketts said on the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score on Wednesday morning. "You can't really buy teams. You have to build them. I think everybody in baseball understands that. Our guys know that. We have to really just refocus on drafting well and then working out a lot of the newer analytics and newer strategies for developing players to get their maximum potential. That's really what our challenge is now looking forward."

The Cubs' payroll in 2019 surpassed the $206-million luxury tax threshold, which resulted in the organization paying "several million" in "dead-weight loss" penalties to the league, Ricketts said. The Cubs had the second-highest payroll in MLB on Opening Day behind the Red Sox, who also missed the playoffs.

It's with that as context that Ricketts reminded throwing big money at the Cubs' problems isn't necessarily the answer.

"It's not about how much you spend," Ricketts said. "It's about how much you win. The correlation between spending and winning isn't nearly as strong as we'd like it to be in a sense. Obviously, the top couple teams in the league (in payroll) didn't make the playoffs. We spent more than every team that made the playoffs, probably a couple of them combined. Even if you really thought spending was the answer, the free-agent market is always fraught.

"It's always a high-risk thing  ... The fact is if you want to outspend everyone and try to win, you start bumping into the luxury tax, which this year we'll pay several million dollars to the league, which is just kind of a dead-weight loss that goes to the other teams. And on top of that, if you do it for too long, the fees go up. And if you do it for too much, then you lose draft picks. Ultimately, it's great to have the financial resources that we do. It's an advantage, and there's no doubt about it."

Many of the Cubs' core members have contracts that expire after the 2021 season, but Ricketts doesn't want that to mark an end to any chapter in franchise history.

"We should be able to be consistent without windows," Ricketts said. "We have the resources financially. We have the good, young players. Maybe we can't keep them all because of the salaries that they'll demand over the next few years. But ultimately now, I think we can stop talking about windows. We should be consistent, and we should be looking toward building a division-winning team every year."