Ricketts: FO put Cubs in position to compete
Club chairman praises work by Hoyer, discusses payroll ahead of first full-squad workout
MESA, Ariz. -- Ahead of the first full-squad workout of the spring on Monday, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was among those who addressed the players in a meeting at the team's complex. Ricketts then watched the group begin what he hopes is a seven-month journey to the postseason.
"We're all just pretty excited to get started," Ricketts said. "If you look at everything our manager has to work with this year, compared to last year or the year before, this is a team that should compete for the division."
Here are five highlights from Ricketts' session with reporters on Monday afternoon:
1. The front office's "exciting" offseason
An offseason after making free-agent splashes with Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer signed Dansby Swanson, Jameson Taillon and Cody Bellinger, among others.
"The way Jed did it this offseason was really good," Ricketts said. "We brought in a lot of talent without blocking future talent. Because we have a lot of good guys coming over the next few years. And we want to make sure that there's opportunities for them when they're ready."
2. Swanson "best fit" among shortstops
The free-agent class was loaded at shortstop, with Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Swanson. The Cubs inked Swanson to a seven-year, $177 million deal as their biggest offseason addition.
"Jed had conversations with a handful of the different shortstops," Ricketts said. "But with Dansby, in addition to his great makeup -- a great teammate and someone that everyone, to a man, says he's a good guy to have on your squad -- we looked at him as someone who is a great defender and a pretty good offensive player, but likely to stay at shortstop for as long as the contract.
"Whereas, there were some other guys where you weren't certain that [staying at shortstop long-term] was the case. So he was the best fit for us all along and, really, the player that Jed wanted the most in this offseason. And we're very fortunate that it worked out."
3. Moving out of the rebuild
The Cubs lost 88 games in 2022, following a 91-loss season in '21. Both seasons included franchise-altering trades that brought in a wave of prospects. Ricketts said the hope now is to move back to a long-term run of winning.
"It was a goal that we laid out a few years ago -- try to be more consistent," Ricketts said. "The boom-and-bust cycle that has been with so many clubs in baseball, we want to kind of get out of that, out of that routine. It didn't work out, coming out of the great teams we had in '16, '17, '18. It just didn't work out to be able to make the personnel moves that could maintain a more consistent winner on the field.
"So we had to adapt to that situation, and I think Jed did a great job with that. Going forward, we'd very much like to be a team that's known for the consistency of competing for the division every year. And ultimately, that's how we're going to get back to the World Series, is just make the playoffs as many times as you can."
4. Raising the payroll
As things currently stand, the Cubs' payroll with regard to the Competitive Balance Tax sits around $225 million. The first CBT threshold is set at $233 million for 2023. Ricketts said the Cubs will take a "year to year" approach to weighing if it makes sense to go over the CBT limits.
"You want to be careful going over the CBT because there are penalties," Ricketts said. "Some of the penalties are merely financial, but over time, they become Draft pick slots and those kinds of things. So you want to be thoughtful about it. And you want to just be alert and manage around it, if you can. If we're midseason and we need a player, we'll do what we have to do then."
5. Sportsbook not ready for Opening Day
Ricketts noted that the sportsbook being built outside Wrigley Field at the corner of Addison Street and Sheffield Avenue will not be ready for the start of the season. He estimated "late spring" as the earliest timeline.
"We don't have a hard date yet," Ricketts said. "It's definitely not Opening Day. It'll be sometime maybe late spring, early summer. ... What we primarily get out of that is DraftKings as a sponsor. And all the sponsorship revenue goes back through the team to the baseball guys to spend, more or less."