After telling Chicago Cubs fans that he’d work hard to give the team the support they’d need to reclaim the division title in 2019, Tom Ricketts hasn’t followed through on his promise.
The ending to the Chicago Cubs‘ 2018 season was nothing short of disastrous. Even chairman Tom Ricketts admits it.
In a letter to season ticket holders following the Cubs ugly loss in the National League Wild Card game, Ricketts addressed the team’s frustrating second half performance:
"Unfortunately, a thrilling summer at Wrigley Field gave way to a disappointing October. Falling one game short in the NL Central and making an early postseason exit, while both unfamiliar and uncomfortable, will motivate us. We will spend the winter working hard to give Joe Maddon and our team the support they need to reclaim our division."
While it’s not exactly a promise of spending big money, Ricketts’ saying that his family and the front office will work hard to support the team in their bid to reclaim the division surely made it sound as if they were planning on making impact additions this winter.
They haven’t done that.
Instead of being in the running for two of the best free agents of all time, the Cubs’ front office has sat on their hands, but the responsibility shouldn’t fall to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
Ken Rosenthal recently reported the team doesn’t even have the financial flexibility to sign a mid-level relief pitcher without dumping salary. If that’s truly the case, that decision is coming from the top.
The Ricketts family seemingly won’t approve spending more than a few million dollars on free agents this winter, as the team looks to avoid the upper echelon of MLB’s luxury tax penalties. But if the league doesn’t have a salary cap and the owners are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate the ballpark, wouldn’t spending more on player salaries be the logical thing to do?
Sure, the Cubs are already near the top of the league in terms of payroll, but the benefits of adding a talent like Harper or Machado to the lineup, as well as their incredible marketability, would energize the fan base and draw thousands into Wrigleyville. It’s a move that would essentially print money for an organization that is already one of the most valuable in the game.
The Cubs’ offensive struggles ultimately sank their season in 2018. If Tom Ricketts was truly committed to “working hard to give Joe Maddon and our team the support they need to reclaim our division,” it makes perfect sense to go all in on signing Machado or Harper.
While their division rivals have added All-Star caliber players like Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew Miller, Yasmani Grandal, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood this winter, the Cubs have added Daniel Descalso, Colin Rea, and Kendall Graveman.
Without an impact addition, the Cubs will still be favored to win the division before the season starts. However, superstars aren’t available in free agency often, so not jumping on an opportunity to shore up what is already one of the best teams in the league makes no sense.
The Cubs Convention is coming up this weekend. With the fan base largely frustrated by the lack of moves this offseason, it’ll be interesting to see the atmosphere of the crowd and the questions they ask front office personnel and executives if given the opportunity.
There’s still over two months until the regular season begins and that’s plenty of time for the Cubs to make a splashy move, but in mid-January, Tom Ricketts’ promise to support the team’s chances at a 2019 division title seem hollow.