Yesterday I pondered how financially limited the Cubs would be this offseason.
We all know some have been painting a pretty dreadful picture when it comes to the Cubs baseball resources. This past week that story line had a little help from team President Theo Epstein. Epstein made an appearance on WSCR Sunday and let you know the baseball ops were counting on the business side to give them more to work with.
“We simply don’t have the payroll flexibility that we would need for a quicker talent infusion given some of the limitations and timing of our business plan and the realities of a lot of circumstances surrounding the ball club right now. But in an ideal world we would be doing both. We would be infusing a lot more, sort of ready talent in this situation, to speed up the clock a little bit with Major League players. We don’t have that luxury right now.
It depends on our ability to come through with our over the air TV package, TV rights deal which is up soon. It depends on our ability to come through and for the right market develop the cable package, which is five years from now, six years from now. It depends on, most importantly, on our ability to get the Wrigley renovation, restoration done quickly and done well and done in a manner that generates revenue.” Said Epstein.
I checked in yesterday with someone with knowledge of the clubs financial state. I was told things aren’t as bad as some of the media portrayals. However, there are real constraints for now.
Could the Cubs make a play for Masahiro Tanaka? Sure, but with the good old Yankees and even the new Yankees (Dodgers) lurking who knows what their chances really are? The good news is the Cubs don’t really see the point in throwing big money at either a Choo or an Ellsburry. Now the international guys in their 20’s are a different story.
Keep in mind the Cubs have heavily been in on the Darvish, Ryu, Cespedes, and even Puig sweepstakes. Has money kept the front office from landing some? Yes, yet they did land the coveted Jorge Soler. I was also reminded the big market Yankees and Red Sox have come up empty all together in those cases.
Gordon Wittenmyer who has been the most vocal in pointing out the money woes, was able to speak directly to Tom Ricketts about the state of the Cubs moving forward. Ricketts acknowledged the team’s lingering purchase debt (Forbes estimated major-league high $580 million) is a factor in spending ability.
However, like I was told yesterday, Wittenmyer was also told it’s “a lot less than you think”. Ricketts said baseball budgets set by ownership aren't necessarily handcuffing Esptein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
“I know it’s not a money issue,’’ Ricketts said of the methods the baseball department is using to restock the farm system and overhaul the organization — and the consequent results at the big-league level. “You can’t just throw money at the problem. We have to build the organization from the ground up. And that’s what we’re doing right now.
“On the business side, we have to continue to develop more revenue lines so that we can have more financial flexibility in the future, and we’re doing that with stadium renovations and other media contracts that are coming up in the future.”
Ricketts is simply counting on the outfield signage and the Jumbotron to help in the short term. The attendance yesterday was a story line, as the Cubs had their lowest draw since Sep of 2002. Is it something that can cause even more of a money issue?
“In terms of attendance, the way I look at it is we have to win,” Ricketts said. “We have to get a more exciting team.”
There seems to be somewhat of a vicious cycle going on here. The team needs to get more exciting to draw and help the bottom line, yet those players could be years away. What are Theo and Hoyer to do?
“Ultimately it will depend on our ability to put a better product on the field at the Major League level so that we can stop the trend in attendance and reverse it and get our attendance back up where it should be and generate revenue that way.” Epstein told WSCR.
Sounds like they got their work cut out for them. Maybe more than they originally thought. Ricketts for one doesn’t waver in his belief or patience.
“The fact is, we’re doing it the right way. We have the best leaders in our baseball organization, the smartest guys. It’s one step at a time. And we’re getting better.” Said Ricketts.
One step at a time is all they can afford.
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