Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts faced the press after a surprisingly quiet winter, proclaiming a “fresh start” and exuding optimism. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian transcribed the session.
Ricketts made no question of the goal: to return to the top of the heap in the National League Central. And he left no doubt of his belief in the roster’s ability to do it, calling the Cubs “the best team in our division.”
The Theo Epstein-led baseball operations department — what Ricketts terms “the best front office in baseball” — has acknowledged that it anticipated more significant roster turnover. But that doesn’t change the assessment for the team’s owner. Ricketts says that “everyone should feel very strongly that we have all the right pieces in place to get us back to the top.”
Bolstering his optimism is the presence of new skipper Davis Ross. Ricketts says the new hire seems thus far to be “the right guy,” labeling Ross “a really dynamic, exciting new manager.”
Was there anything else to cover? Oh, right … payroll. Jokes aside, finances dominated the conversation.
Ricketts was asked directly whether the Competitive Balance Tax threshold formed the team’s spending limit this year. He acknowledged having a budget and strongly considering the impacts of the luxury line. But Ricketts also denied that they’re one and the same, explaining that luxury penalties “aren’t defining the decisions in the front office, but they’re always a consideration in the front office.” And he said it’s always possible the organization “might stretch the budget” if circumstances warrant.
There were plenty more stretches of discussion to the same essential effect. We might sum it up this way: the Cubs have spent what they can for now, but they might consider adding more (or, presumably, could trim) depending upon how things look come late July.
Broadly, Ricketts focused on — you guessed it — sustainable winning, explaining that the club carries a “strategy of trying to be as consistent as possible to make the playoffs as often as possible.” The amount of money spent is less important than the decisions made, he emphasized several times. Neither statement reveals much of substance.
The other big issue that was addressed was the long-term relationship with star infielders Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. As for the former, Ricketts spoke fondly, largely dismissed chatter about his trade availability without ruling it out, and generally tried to strike a positive tone on the heels of a grievance proceeding that went the team’s way. Will either or both be extended, even if it’d mean stretching the future budget? “That’s in Theo’s camp,” Ricketts said, before noting that the ownership group would “have to take a look at what that all would mean for us financially.”