The Chicago Cubs have not yet reconstructed their core this winter, as many in the industry expected following a disappointing 2019, but they continue to signal that the time is coming, and perhaps coming soon. Consider an interview general manager Jed Hoyer did on Friday with 670 The Score, in which he conceded the Cubs will not be able to keep their core together forever.
"I think there are certain realities where we are not going to be able to keep this group together forever," Hoyer said about the foursome hitting free agency after 2021 that includes Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber. "It may be by them leaving through free agency. It may be by us trading some of them. We might be able to extend some of them."
Hoyer added that the Cubs are "past the point" of being able to extend all those players.
Hoyer's admission should come as no surprise: most teams would be unable to retain their entire cores past the team control phases of their careers. On top of that, the Cubs may be located in a major media market, and may have founded their own network, but they haven't always operated like an elite financial behemoth.
Last year was the first time the Cubs entered a season with a payroll exceeding $200 million, and it was just the second time they paid the luxury tax -- a bill of $7.58 million, according to Cot's Contracts. That's a trifling fee for a prestigious (and quite successful) franchise, yet an amount that seemed to annoy ownership. To wit, chairman Tom Ricketts recently talked with The Athletic about finances, among other topics, and bemoaned the luxury tax penalties.
The Cubs are projected to once again exceed the luxury tax, but that seems unlikely to remain the case come Opening Day. Hoyer and crew have been hamstrung by self-imposed financial restrictions, the likes of which have prevented them from adding even modest targets, such as utility infielder Eric Sogard, who signed for $4.5 million with the Milwaukee Brewers.
It's clear, then, that the tipping point is in sight, and that the Cubs are unlikely to resemble their recent selves come Opening Day. Different doesn't necessarily mean better; it will, likely, mean cheaper. Whether or not the Ricketts grasp the distinction is the dealer's choice.