I sit here roughly 900 miles south of Chicago as a lifelong Cubs fan from New Orleans who grew up with Harry Caray instead of after-school specials or cartoons like most kids in the 1980’s.
A prerequisite for Cubs fans is that we think with our hearts above anything else. I am going to explain why the fans are 100 percent correct in their desire to acquire one of the best players in the game and involves thinking beyond our hearts.
The primary issue we keep hearing from the front office is the subject of the luxury tax. The team’s payroll is nearing $200 million but is not quite there according to spotrac.com who has the current payroll listed around $170 million. The luxury tax threshold is $206 million so that is the number to keep in mind as the Cubs’ brass is preaching they must shed some salary to make this potential blockbuster move for Bryce Harper.
The long-term forecast seems realistic as the Cubs could realistically free up around $50 million after next season without compromising the core of the team. Two notable names that account for approximately $33 mil are Cole Hamels and Ben Zobrist who could take pay cuts in their late 30’s to win titles while some of the other pieces are expendable.
We will re-visit the contracts shortly but think about what Bryce Harper brings to the lineup. A left-handed slugger that would be deadly surrounded by Rizzo, Baez, and Bryant who fits the pre-2018 Cubs approach to taking pitches and working counts while also having the ability to put one into the bleachers at any time. Defensively, he is strong as well and would give you a potential outfield of Heyward in the right, Almora in the center, and Harper in left that would be ridiculous. A 6x All-Star and former MVP getting into his prime at age 26 is a no-brainer.
The Cubs cannot allow the last offseason to ruin this great move in the team’s history. Yes, we know about Tyler Chatwood and Yu Darvish, but there could easily be a rebound for both but remember this team won 95 games without any production from either player.
The Brewers are coming off a division title and are not going away despite losing a few midseason additions to free agency. The Cardinals traded for one of the game’s elite hitters in Paul Goldschmidt and had enough talent overall to be a threat as well. So now for the money dumping that we keep hearing about.
They have made some modest cost-saving moves thus far with the departures of Tommy La Stella, and Drew Smyly and other options remain. As much as I like Brandon Morrow, the transition went smoothly to Pedro Strop becoming the closer, so there are a potential $10 million savings as there is no shortage of teams needing a closer or set up guy with postseason swag. Then there is Chatwood who the team could get creative and pay the 2020 portion of his contract which may entice a deprived pitching team like the Reds, White Sox, and so on. There is another $10 million. I am not Theo Epstein or Jed Hoyer but these types of moves are possible, and with the contracts coming off the following season there are viable options.
Last, let’ s think about it. This organization’s team payroll is less than 40 percent of its revenue and every year I visit the shrine of Wrigley Field it is impossible to ignore the cash-generating juggernaut that the Ricketts family have created near Clark and Addison with a new hotel and a small shopping district all team owned. The fans deserve nothing less as loyal as have been and this move makes too much sense on every level to happen. So worst case scenario pay the damn luxury tax!