Chicago Cubs Rumors: Not pursuing Harper, Machado would be a mistake

Chicago Cubs (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

In a pivotal offseason, the Chicago Cubs rumors suggest they might be making a franchise-altering blunder if they don’t sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

Recent Chicago Cubs rumors seem to suggest that the team has little room to financially maneuver a deal to bring either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado to the North Side.

While the Cubs are already one of the top spending teams across MLB, it would seem silly that in a sport without a salary cap, a team like the Cubs would shy away from attempting to sign a generational talent like Harper or Machado.

Of course, there’s the competitive balance tax (CBT), better known as the luxury tax, that has been serving as a de facto salary cap for many teams.

The Cubs stayed under the luxury tax threshold for the 2018 season, so when they exceed it in 2019, they’ll be penalized as first-time offenders. The Cubs payroll is already well past the first threshold of the CBT ($206 million), and not far from crossing the second as well.

Set at $246 million, the third threshold of the CBT seems to be what the Cubs are currently trying to avoid. While the team can freely blow past this number if they so choose, they’d end up paying the highest rate luxury tax for first-time offenders (62.5%) as well as having their first pick in the 2020 draft moved back 10 spots.

The question of whether the Cubs makes these moves doesn’t depend on if they have the money, it’s all about if the Ricketts family is willing to spend it.

The 2018 season marked the fourth straight playoff appearance for the Cubs, a new franchise record. Investing more money into a team that’s already one of the best in the league seems like a no-brainer, especially considering the substantial effort and money poured into updating Wrigley Field and areas outside of the ballpark.

Those renovations are continuing this offseason, as the Cubs look to modernize Wrigley and give fans the best possible experience. Before the project began, the estimated total cost was $575 million. With that kind of money being spent on upgrading Wrigley, spending additional money and taking a luxury tax hit to get the best possible product on the field should be a priority.

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A great ballpark experience doesn’t matter if the team playing in it doesn’t live up to expectations, and the 2018 version of the Cubs certainly didn’t do that.

The Cubs’ offense was mired in a slump for nearly the entire second half, and it led to their eventual elimination in the National League Wild Card game.

From August 1st until the end of the regular season, the Cubs ranked 19th in batting average and on-base percentage, 18th in runs scored, 25th in slugging percentage, 21st in walk-to-strikeout ratio, and 29th in hard contact percentage.

Putting the same group of players on the field next year and expecting things to magically improve is lunacy. The front office has to make some changes, whether through free agency or through trade, to find consistent bats to plug into what has been a wildly unpredictable lineup.

Who better to jumpstart the Cubs offense than one of the best hitters in baseball?

Since debuting in 2012, both Harper and Machado have been phenoms at the plate. They’ve both went through some up and down seasons, but overall, their numbers both stand out as two of the best in the game.

Of the 420 players that have at least 1,000 plate appearances since the start of the 2012 season, Harper and Machado rank 19th and 21st respectively in total home runs. In terms of OPS over that time, Harper is 9th best while Machado dips in the rankings to 53rd.

It’s important to remember that in 2012 when they premiered, both players were just 19-years-old, and neither one logged a full season’s worth of games.

If we look at more recent statistics, over the past four seasons, Machado is eighth in total home runs while Harper is ninth. Looking at OPS again, Harper again leads the way, with the sixth-best mark in baseball while Machado sits down at 33rd. (For those wondering, the pronounced difference in OPS is due to Harper’s uncanny ability to draw walks. His 14.8 percent career walk rate is more than double Machado’s).

While fans would love for the Cubs to act like the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers and blow past the luxury tax threshold to bring in one of the big bats, ownership is seemingly thinking otherwise.

Next. Cubs rumored to not be pursuing Harper or Machado. dark

Can the Cubs be a good team without adding one of the two big free agents to their lineup? Of course. The team won 95 games in a disappointing year. However, there is a hole in the lineup, and it would be best filled by Harper or Machado.

For a team with a greatly talented young core of players, ownership should show they’re serious about their commitment to bring more World Series to Wrigleyville and make a splash this winter. The Cubs’ core is still young and incredibly talented, but championship windows are only open for so long, and franchises have to take advantage of them when they can.