Tom Ricketts Believes Current Spending Level Should Be Enough to Win Consistently

Tom Ricketts didn’t do much to stoke the fires of hope when it comes to adding Cody Bellinger or any other big-ticket free agents this season. Speaking to the media at Sloan Park on Monday morning, the Cubs chairman put the onus on Scott Boras and his client(s) in saying nothing has progressed to the negotiation stage. Whether it’s simple posturing or just a lie he’s forcing himself to believe, Ricketts shared a bullish outlook on the coming season.

“I think Jed had a really good offseason,” he said. “We’ve added some parts that are going to be beneficial to the whole. I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be favored for our division this year.”

To be fair, he’s said more or less the same thing even in years that had far less of a potential performance delta than this one. The Cubs haven’t done much on paper to improve the roster, but if you sprinkle some pixie dust on them and believe hard enough it’s possible to see them flying into the postseason.

Taking flight would be a little easier if they chose to spend more, but it doesn’t sound like that’s in the cards unless something changes.

Ed. note: Something may have changed, or at least it’s looking that way. Ricketts obviously would have known about jersey ads long ago, so it’s all a matter of not making any announcements yet.

“That’s the beauty of baseball,” Ricketts explained. “You don’t have to have the highest payroll or the biggest stars. If you’re playing well, anybody can beat anybody. I was happy for the Diamondbacks.”

Probably not best to compare yourselves to a team that just threatened to move in the future — though that too has been in the Ricketts family playbook — though this is the same thing Ricketts has repeated ad nauseam for years as he has advised against magic free agents and dead-weight spending. Just over a year ago, he said spending would get back to “near CBT levels,” and he was right back at it again on Monday. Pretty much word for word, actually.

“We’re right there at CBT levels,” he said. “It’s kind of our natural place for us. That should be enough to win our division and be consistent every year.”

Ricketts responded with “more revenue” when asked what it would take to bump that payroll number, which is funny because they’re currently in line to spend less than in 2023. The Cubs are at an estimated $208 million in CBT payroll right now, about $19 million shy of last year’s total and $29 million below the first penalty threshold. That shouldn’t be the natural place for an organization of their financial might.

Alas, there are only so many ways you can say the same thing. Here’s to hoping it’s all just empty talk and that Jed Hoyer’s still got a couple more moves up his sleeve.

Update: I’d say signing Cody Bellinger is a move that was up Jed’s sleeve, one which may have been facilitated in part by the sale of ad patches. The Cubs and Bellinger agreed to a three-year, $80 million deal that puts them right at the first tax penalty threshold and could even push them over if he opts out after the first year.

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