We Are Regal Radio co-founder and former Los Angeles Dodger scouting personnel member Sean Terry breaks down the Cubs momentum out of 2015 and sizes up their ability to capitalize while building a stronger club for 2016. Catch part 2 of this post on Tuesday.
With last week’s MVP decision concluding the MLB postseason award announcements, the 2015 MLB season has now come to an official close and one thing is certain after all the headlines were printed — the Chicago Cubs are now the certified darlings of baseball.
For proof, look no further than the awards themselves and where they went, as the North Siders were the first team since the 1983 White Sox to have recipients for Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year and Cy Young, the first team since the 2001 Mariners to win as many as three of the postseason awards in one League.
The Cubs had to be teased with a clean sweep as first baseman Anthony Rizzo finished fourth in what was a suspect MVP voting but I, like most other Cubs fans, will happily take the honorable mention so long as the winning ways continue for the club.
For what it’s worth, the success of this past season feels like the start of something special on the North Side, but in order to take the next step in building on the 97 wins from 2015 and realize the party everyone in Chicago so desperately desires, the Cubs will have to do a little heavy lifting this offseason.
Nonetheless, with a now completed stadium renovation on track with new amenities to follow by 2016 and a year away from front office extensions for team executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, I fully expect the Cubs to ratchet up on the sense of urgency and really make a push for that elusive World Series in 2016 by making a significant splash this off-season to further fortify an already strong, albeit young roster.
A New Precedence in the NL Central
The fact that the Cubs made a deep post-season run this year, slaying two of their rivals: Pirates and Cardinals along the way to secure top-dog supremacy in the NL Central, fans can expect owner Tom Ricketts to do as he promised when he purchased the team in 2009, opening the coffers for a sizeable reinvestment in next year’s team and green lighting Epstein & Company to do everything needed to help the club make the next step toward a World Series berth.
For a sense of how much money the Cubs have to play with this off-season, let’s start by taking a look at the amount invested in 2015. With a big time acquisition in Jon Lester and a slick heist of an elite manager in Joe Maddon, the Cubs not so quietly made an investment to the tune of $192.1 million, of which $55 million was a guarantee cap hit last season.
One can expect, given the increased revenue in 2015 due to the extended playoff run and a looming TV deal set to bring in more money, the Cubs will likely use last year’s allotment as a baseline with a probable 25-30% bump in spending this off-season.
Stranger things have happened, but don’t be surprised to see around $70-75M in monies earmarked to address the Cubs’ healthy list of arbitration eligible players (nine to be exact), including Jake Arrieta, as well as a few glaring needs going into next year.
Fully expect seven of the nine eligible for arbitration to return to the club with moderate bumps in salary based on service time and their impacts on the club last year. The Cy Young award-winning Jake Arrieta is a no-brainer, and as a recipient of a modest $3.4M last season, and coming off a season where he devastated the competition, his arbitration case will be a swift deal and a necessary first step in securing his long-term presence in the rotation for several years to come.
Unheralded flex rotation pitchers Clayton Richard and Travis Wood should also expect to receive bumps, while bullpen staples Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, and Hector Rondon will all likely get taken care of in brief order, thus returning the back end bullpen to full strength.
The one wild card amongst those eligible for arbitration will be Chris Coghlan. Coghlan proved invaluable in the super sub role last year and with sizeable upside left in the tank, it is in the best interest of the Cubs to retain his services instead of pursuing his oft-mentioned super-sub counterpart, Ben Zobrist, who ironically turns 35 years old next season, an age often associated with rapid decline in performance for most baseball players.
Despite the need to address so many current players before embarking on the real spending, the good news for the Cubs is the fact that Epstein has hit a homerun on the original plan of positioning the team for sustained success, as the central core of the team is in place and under team control for many years to come.
Jorge Soler is under team control through 2020, while Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and Javier Baez are under control through 2021.
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio; Sean Terry is a co-founder of We Are Regal Radio and host of WARR’s The Varsity Show