Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are the two biggest free agents on the market this offseason, and the Chicago Cubs are a big-market, successful team looking to improve. It would stand to reason that they might get involved in the bidding for either player, but that might not be the case.
The Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer wrote in a column on Friday that he believes the Cubs are signaling a potential “creatively financed, more constrained winter” this offseason.
The Cubs got below the luxury tax in 2018 and have reset the escalating penalty timeline, which some thought would free them for a pursuit of the big free agents. However, Wittenmyer points out that the team traded Drew Smyly to the Rangers in a salary dump to clear room to exercise their contract option on Cole Hamels. They’re projected to have a payroll of around $204 million next year once arbitration players are retained, which wouldn’t leave much room for high-priced free agents.
Plus, there was this comment from team president Theo Epstein after the Cubs’ season ended.
“We’ve spent a lot of money on players, and that’s not always the answer — to rush back out and spend more. Obviously, there are a lot of attractive players out there and some impact players out there, and we’ll get together and figure out what’s possible, what’s not possible and all the best approaches to this offseason.”
Those don’t sound like the words of a man who’s ready to go on a spending spree. Perhaps the Cubs feel that with a new hitting coach and having players like Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish healthy will give them a better shot at a deep postseason run.
All this may disappoint Harper, who has seemed to indicate an interest in playing for the Cubs.