Friday, October 10, 2008

What’s The Budget?

One of the biggest questions for 2009 is, “How much can the Cubs spend? What’s their budget?”

At this point, we don’t know.

As Mark Cuban notes in the papers today, the Cubs sale is likely to be held up even longer. In order to avoid paying taxes on the sale, Sam Zell was envisioning a structure that required massive amounts of bank debt. In case people haven’t noticed, banks are not lending very aggressively right now. That makes the probability that the Cubs will still be in Tribune hands come spring quite high.

That’s a problem. In previous years, the Cubs could have had a nearly unlimited budget. That is likely not so anymore given the Tribune’s mounting losses and cash flow needs for debt service in 2009.

So, looking at the contracts and upcoming demands, it’s more likely the Cubs will shed payroll instead of adding. If payroll even just stays flat with last year, some players have to go. And it appears that everyone with a seven figure salary is a candidate to go. There’s not a single player on that list that is a “must keep” player, including even Carlos Zambrano.

The extension of Rich Harden is still not a guaranty that he won’t be traded. It’s hard to see both Wood and Dempster being retained, especially with Dempster likely demanding multiple years at eight figures per year.

All this handwringing over finances could all be rendered moot by a quick sale of the team. Hard to see that happening.

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