Missing out on the opportunity to pay 33-year-old Eric Sogard $4.5 million isn’t really a problem for the Cubs. The problem is that they missed out on the opportunity because they apparently can’t afford that big a deal for anyone. If that’s truly the case, and every single bit of anecdotal evidence says it is, the Cubs aren’t just looking to maintain a payroll similar to last year. It appears as though they’re indeed looking to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold.
Eric Sogard to the Brewers, as reported by @Ken_Rosenthal. Cubs looked at him last season and now, again, wanted him this off-season, but goes to Mil. Cubs just can't add $$ until they subtract
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) December 18, 2019
The Cubs had checked in on Sogard at the trade deadline and were interested in him again this winter, but the price tag was simply too high. And not just because the deal the Brewers gave him to return to Milwaukee is a little spicy, but because the Cubs “can’t add $ until they subtract,” per the Jesse Rogers tweet above. That’s probably why Chicago added the similarly versatile, and similarly Milwaukee-connected, Hernán Pérez on a minor-league deal Tuesday night.
Again, though, not landing Sogard isn’t the issue. If the Cubs can’t even add $4.5 million without first clearing payroll, they’re not going to be able to add anyone more expensive without moving even more payroll. And unless they are somehow able to offload a major chunk of Jason Heyward‘s salary, any cost-cutting measure almost certainly means parting with a boatload of production.
Of course, getting another team to assume enough of Heyward’s remaining salary to free up room for free agents would require the addition of one or more other relatively high-profile players and/or prospects. I’d say the Cubs would be cutting off their nose to spite their face, except that this is more like cutting off their nose and selling it in order to afford to replace their missing ear. Then they’ve got to find a new nose from the clearance aisle, probably one with a deviated septum, along with a thumb and a pinkie toe.
In that regard, the Cubs seem to be stuck in this paradoxical quandary from which there is no universally acceptable escape. They can’t spend their way out because ownership won’t allow it and they can’t maintain the status quo because they can’t afford to supplement the roster with even the cheapest free agents. Trades could free up money, but would leave them with a talent deficit.
Actually, even the status quo might not be a viable option with the Cubs estimated to be sitting north of the luxury tax threshold based solely on current commitments. So, uh, that falls a good ways short of awesome and it’s much different from what most had thought was going to happen this winter. Which is to say the prevailing belief was that they’d stay around the same payroll as this past season, maybe a little less, and have $20-25 million to spend in the offseason.
But if that was happening, they’d have already made good on the mutual interest with Nicholas Castellanos that has been so widely reported. At a salary of around $15-18 million annually, the outfielder would help build the culture David Ross is trying to reignite while still leaving room for Sogard and someone like Shogo Akiyama or Kwang-hyun Kim.
I sincerely hope I’m either proven wrong or ownership decides to loosen the purse strings once more, because things are not pointed in a very encouraging direction right now. One last time, that has nothing to do with Sogard, who could end up being a Daniel Descalso redux. This is about how the Cubs couldn’t have signed Sogard even if they’d wanted to, which they did.
Man, Cubs Convention is gonna be lit.