Ricketts has faith front office will spend wisely, reap benefits
MESA, Ariz. -- After giving his own speech and taking in speeches from new manager David Ross and club president Theo Epstein before Monday's first full-squad workout of spring training, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts took questions from the media.
There was plenty to ask, and Ricketts had some interesting responses.
Let's go to the highlights:
Q: Can you afford to sign key players like Kris Bryant and Javy Baez before they reach free agency?
A: Where we place our resources is a baseball decision, that's Jed (Hoyer) and Theo. But ultimately, we have to look at it from a bigger perspective. Just because you spend a lot of money doesn't mean you're going to win.
We've seen that in our own organization the last couple years, we saw that our first year (2009) where we had the third-highest payroll and maybe the 22nd-best record. The fact is, it's not really about how much you spend, it's about where you spend it and getting the right guys on board.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Bryant trade rumors?
A: Obviously, (fans) love K.B. He's a great player, he's a great teammate. He's just a great part of the team. Most of the things that are out there are just rumors and noise, a lot of it's just not true.
But with respect to all player decisions, if anything was going down that path that would be a baseball decision. But we love Kris and we hope he stays healthy and has a great year.
Q: Bryant said he'd like to be apprised of his status. Is that possible?
A: I imagine there's communication between Theo and Kris at some point. I think they met yesterday. But a lot of the stuff, what do you communicate to say what you just saw was a rumor? I don't know. Like I said, we love K.B. I think he's ready to go, and a full season of a healthy Kris Bryant is something we can really use.
Q: How wary are you of paying a competitive balance tax?
A: There are some sanctions and punishments you get for going over. Those aren't defining the decisions in the front office, but they're always a consideration. Our goal is to win the World Series. The strategy to get there is to put a team on the field that competes for the division title every year. What you've seen the last few years, particularly last year, you had the second wild-card team (Nationals) going all the way and winning the World Series.
The goal for us is to be consistent and have a team that can win every year. So you think about putting your resources to work and you have to put it through those filters. I think (Epstein and Hoyer) are as good as anyone in baseball at putting teams together, and I trust they'll put our resources to work in a way that gets us back to the World Series.
Q: After a quiet winter, is it possible to add payroll during the season?
A: We had the highest baseball budget in the league last year, so we're putting resources to work. If we find a place that we can put dollars to work that we think will help us get to the World Series, we do it. It's just they're not infinite resources. We have to manage it, and that's the real challenge."
Q: Why have the Cubs been so inactive adding players the last two offseasons?
A: We kind of had a different circumstance this year. Some of the flexibility we would have had going into the off-season we used last summer to bring in (Craig) Kimbrel. But I trust our baseball guys to put those resources to work in the right way and also keep a long-term perspective.
Q: Have resources been spent properly the past few years?
A: Obviously, it's disappointing to not make the playoffs, no matter how much money you spend. I think we have the talent. A lot of things conspired against us toward the end of the season but that's really no excuse.
I think we should be back in the playoffs this year and I trust our guys to put the dollars where they think they're going to get the best return.
Q: Are you surprised a player like Bryant wasn't traded this winter?
A: In terms of big changes, it's hard. You guys follow the game, it's not like there are a lot of player-for-player swaps anymore. Trades don't happen like they used to. I'm pretty confident we have the right group of guys and the right manager, so I'm not worried about it.
Q: Will you have to trade players to get under the luxury tax threshold this season?
A: That's what out baseball guys look at all the time, trying to optimize that. Obviously, paying large taxes is really inefficient and not a great use of team resources. If there's a way to put a great team on the field and not pay that, they will.
Q: Are all revenues still going back into the team?
A: Yeah. We want to win just like everyone else. We have to give a sufficient amount of resources to put the best team on the field. Fortunately, the business operations has done a really good job of building up the revenue lines and stabilizing all of our financial positions so we can be with those other teams every year.
We'll be among the top spenders and the teams with the most financial resources. But like I said, the most financial resources doesn't always equate to the most wins. We have to manage that as well.