I thought it was about time to take a more thorough look at the 2014 Cubs and eventually discuss ways in which they could contend. The first thing to look at is how much money the Cubs may have to spend, which means we need to know how much money they currently have on the books for 2014.
Cots Contracts at Baseball Prospectus makes this easy.
Not included in this list are arbitration eligible players or David DeJesus whose $6.5 million option will surely be picked up. The Cubs currently have five players who are. James Russell will earn the last of the three while Nate Schierholtz can expect a modest raise from his 2013 salary of $2.25 million. Darwin Barney and Travis Wood are eligible for the first time. Jeff Samardzija earned $2.64 million in 2013 and has had a pretty good year. The Cubs and Samardzija appear to be interested in working out a long-term contract this offseason.
If no extension is worked out, Samardzija can probably expect a salary in the $5 million range. Schierholtz can probably anticipate earning $3 million and James Russell about $1.5 million. Barney and Wood are a bit more difficult. There's no doubt that Barney is an offensive black hole, but there's also no doubt that the guy can play exceptional defense.
Wood has been about average if you look at WARP and above average if you look at fWAR. He was the team's only all-star, but I'm guessing the Cubs work something out with him in the $2 million range. I'd be surprised if the Cubs are willing to pay Barney anything over $1 million.
The total for arbibtration eligible players can probably be expected to be about $13 million.
Also not included are any players who are not yet eligible for arbitration. These players earn $500,000. Even if you fill out the rest of the roster with these players, that would add about $6 million in salary. That, along with the $13 million (arbitration eligible), $6.5 million for DeJesus and $49.3 million (contracts) takes the Cubs payroll up to $74.7 million.
The payroll entering this season was just a bit over $107 million. We don't know what kind of budget the Cubs will have for next year, but we can probably bet it's not going to exceed that. The payroll has been going down since the Tribune sold the team, but I think we can all agree the Cubs needed to rebuild in some way, which means a lower payroll.
The Ricketts' family has gotten approval from the city to renovate Wrigley and that will have to have some sort of impact on the payroll in future years. I would expect in the next two to three years that we see the payroll hover right around $100 million and that impact beyond that will likely be positive.
The Cubs should have at least $25-35 million to work with this offseason. That's not a tremendous amount of money these days, but the Cubs should be able to make some improvements.