The Cubs Payroll Numbers, I Think

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It’s been a while since we’ve had any major news, but late Friday night, we heard from various sources that the Chicago Cubs and Jake Arrieta had settled on a contract prior to their arbitration hearing.  This is a good thing, and although many Cubs fans had hoped for an extension, there’s still plenty of time for that, should the two sides find common ground.  The details are as such:

The Cubs and Arrieta have agreed to a one-year, $10.7 million contract, a source close to the negotiations confirmed, avoiding an arbitration hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday in Arizona.

This means that the front office led by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have continued to avoid arbitration hearings even since they were in Boston, which is a pretty good thing because arbitration could get nasty sometimes.  I’m pretty sure Hoyer avoided arbitration hearings in his brief time helming the San Diego Padres, but I don’t mind someone correcting me if I’m mistaken.  As for the other guys:

While the Arrieta extension didn’t happen (and Samsonite! I was waaaay off! LOL Rice), again, Jake has another year of control after the 2016 season before he can become a free agent, and it makes sense to just get a deal done for 2016 and then see how his arm and performance hold up before committing major money to the staff ace.  This way there is time for the front office to evaluate additional trade and free agent options (recall that John Lackey‘s deal expires in 2017, and Jason Hammel is only guaranteed for this season) and to evaluate Arrieta’s performance, which is projected to remain pretty good, albeit not as incredible as his Cy Young season (not to say he won’t repeat it, but let’s not count on it!).

There’s also time to see whether the sharp uptick in innings pitched will affect Arrieta long term, or if his otherworldly fitness regime will allow him to avoid the injury bug.  Arrieta is entering his age 30 season, and will be in his age 32 season when he tests free agency barring an extension, so depending on who you talk to, his arm may be developed enough that he won’t be a major injury risk anymore.  I keep thinking about late-blooming elite starters like Cliff Lee (who is trying to come back from injury, ironically) and Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, and although both are southpaws, I feel like there’s a chance that Jake Arrieta could have a similar later-in-career renaissance like those guys, even if he never quite reaches Hall of Fame status (it’s obviously hard to play at a Hall of Fame level, so that’s an unrealistic expectation, but let me dream, eh?).

For today’s exercise, as a way to educate myself (I’ve read about this all the time from other wonderful blogs and intelligent folks, but never did it myself), I decided to curate a bunch of sources and just figure out how much the Cubs are spending for 2016 on payroll.  This will give us a springboard from which to see how much money the team has to play with if they decide to go after a midseason addition before the trade deadline, etc.  So I’m using the Cubs’ 40 man roster, and making some minor assumptions about who is actually going to be on the active roster.  I’m also using Cot’s contracts for the Cubs to double-check the contract year-by-year breakdowns.  I’m also using a couple sources to pin down the way non-active roster guys are paid, with the True Blue LA guys being the more recent source.  So I will take that data, put a generous cost-of-living increase on the MLB minimum salary (to $520K) and 40-man salary (let’s go with $83K), and that should give us a fairly good estimate of the payroll for 2016.  This exercise, however, doesn’t take into account how the luxury tax payroll will be, which I think is calculated per average annual value and not what’s actually being paid that particular season.  I’ll have to check on that, but either way I think the Cubs will miss the luxury tax threshold by a healthy margin, which is fine with me.

You may also note that I have 27 guys marked active when there are only 25 spots, because I don’t actually know who will be healthy or perform well enough to win a spot on the margins, but I just included the guys I think most likely to make the team out of Spring Training.  I also won’t think about the arbitration-eligible guys who might get cut early on to save the team some money, but there’s enough leeway in the budget that it shouldn’t matter.  So let’s take a look:

 

Pitcher Payroll Numbers
Pitcher Payroll Numbers
Catcher and Infielder Payroll Numbers
Catcher and Infielder Payroll Numbers
Outfielder Payroll Numbers, plus the Total 2016 Payroll Estimate
Outfielder Payroll Numbers, plus the Total 2016 Payroll Estimate

This payroll doesn’t include the $11MM (minus league minimum paid by the Miami Marlins) that the Cubs still owe Edwin Jackson.  If you include that, the Cubs are past $150MM in payroll obligations, and this is before some of the pitchers reach their performance incentives, which could drive the payroll towards $160MM.  So as I said above, the Cubs are well below the luxury tax threshold, and depending on how much money they’re hiding away, given the cheap infield and all of the known costs, are positioned well to add to the team if they so choose before the trade deadline.

With contracts coming off the books next year, there won’t be as much relief as one might think due to arbitration raises, but the Cubs continue to keep their options wide open for when the cool toys come on the market in a few years’ time.  For now, it’s incredible to note that with a payroll barely higher than the 2011 payroll, before Theo and Jed came in and started rebuilding, the Cubs look to be one of the best teams, if not THE best teams, on paper, and have the depth and confidence to back that up when the games start to matter.  I’m excited.

 

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About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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