Despite having been previously linked to several high-profile free agents who are now on the market, including superstar outfielder Bryce Harper, the Cubs reportedly have financial concerns that could end up limiting how much they spend this offseason, and possibly even take them out of the running for this winter's biggest names, multiple sources told Patrick Mooney of The Athletic.
The Cubs' possible money concerns have already played a role in their early offseason business. After exercising their $20-million option on Cole Hamels on Friday, they traded left-hander Drew Smyly and his $7-million salary to the Texas Rangers in a financially-motivated move that helped clear space for Hamels' salary.
Including Hamels, Chicago's current payroll sits slightly above $167 million, according to Spotrac. That's well below the $206-million luxury-tax threshold for the moment, but it's a figure that will rise regardless of who the team brings in from outside the organization.
Three of the Cubs' young stars in Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Kyle Hendricks are all poised to receive substantial raises in arbitration later this winter. Bryant, whose 2018 salary set a record for a first-year arbitration-eligible player, is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $12.4 million in 2019. Baez and Hendricks, meanwhile, are both projected to draw salaries above the $7-million mark.
In addition, the Cubs are also on the hook for several megadeals they signed in previous offseasons. Adding Harper (or anyone else) on a megadeal would presumably push the team's payroll well past the tax threshold they apparently wish to avoid.
Back in September, the Cubs were listed as the betting favorites to sign Harper.