There was a time when Cubs fans dreamed of an outfield of Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Nick Castellanos with a big-money shortstop anchoring the infield and an elite catcher behind the plate. That lineup is a reality for Phillies fans after the team agreed to an 11-year, $300 million deal with Trea Turner that features a full no-trade clause. There had been some buzz recently about the Phils viewing Xander Bogaerts as a viable option, but that felt like a ploy because the match with Turner has been clear for a while.
I wonder if owner John Middleton is aware that spending all kinds of money right now is no way to ensure winning 6-8 years down the road. After all, they’ve inked big deals with J.T. Realmuto and starter Zack Wheeler in recent seasons as well. What will they do when they’re merely competitive year after year and don’t have to rebuild because they chose to spend their way out of it?
Setting the snark aside for a moment, this effectively sets the floor for a Carlos Correa contract because it’s hard to imagine he’ll settle for less than $300 million. The question at that point isn’t whether the Cubs are comfortable stretching to that total amount, it’s how high they’re willing to go in terms of AAV to shorten the duration of the deal.
Going to $310 over eight years (38.75M AAV) would give Correa a position-player AAV record (Mike Trout – $35.5M) while topping Turner and also giving him more than Francisco Lindor‘s 10-year deal when combined with the $35.1 million Correa got from the Twins last season. I’m willing to bet the prospect of making $345.1 million over nine years appeals to Correa. But does spending that much per season over the next eight seasons for one player appeal to Tom Ricketts?
What should appeal to Cubs ownership is the idea of putting a competitive product on the field and selling more tickets, both season and single-game, while also getting better ratings on Marquee. Even though a large faction of fans still bemoans the idea of spending big on free agents, the Cubs can’t just be a subsistence organization that relies almost exclusively on what its farm produces.
Giving Correa the bag would signal the rest of the league that the Cubs are once again committed to winning, even if there’s still a lot of work to do to get them back to that 2015-17 level. People from outside the club are having trouble defining “intelligent spending,” but I put it like this: Winning makes you look intelligent and spending money makes winning easier.
Don’t go getting intellectually dishonest by conflating that with saying money guarantees championships, because that’s not at all what I’m saying. But you’re a fool if you don’t think spending big on elite players is a huge help. Time for the Cubs to start acting like a major market team again.