Cubs Indeed Seem to Be Pivoting from Ohtani, Payroll Could Still Exceed CBT Threshold

Word out of the Winter Meetings Tuesday was that the Cubs were pivoting from Shohei Ohtani and possibly even Yoshinobu Yamamoto after balking at their respective price tags. As dubious as that sounds on the surface since everyone knew how much Ohtani was going to cost, we don’t have context for what additional details might have gone into his desired contract. As for Yamamoto, the latest report is that he could end up close to $300 million, a huge increase over initial projections.

Jed Hoyer was largely mum on the subject when speaking to reporters in Nashville, saying only that they’d received no updates from Ohtani’s camp. Bruce Levine and Jon Heyman subsequently shared that the Cubs had not been formally told that they were out, though all signs indicate the team is pivoting to other options. Part of that is the messaging, some of which Levine shared with 670 The Score’s Mully & Haugh Show on Wednesday morning.

“I was told a net $15-20 million a year [in added revenue],” Levine said. “So that sounds like very little compared to some people saying it’s $80-100 million a year, and there were some reports like that, but the reality is that a net $15-20 million a year is an awful lot. It’s an awful lot for the Cubs. Now that is after all expenses, that is after you write off every major league player on your 40-man roster’s 40% of their contracts, which you are allowed to legally at the end of the year take off of your books. So there is plenty of money there.”

What’s funny is that Levine himself is the one who reported that Ohtani was worth $100 million annually, a number that came from an Angels source. That could still be pretty close to this updated figure when you look at it as a net amount, especially considering how at least $50 million is going into salary. When you get down to it, this has the feel of some internal accounting — or just sharing the numbers from a different angle to make them look much smaller — that was shared with Levine as a way to soften the blow from falling short.

Another aspect of those internal figures is that failing to land Ohtani will fundamentally change the Cubs’ budget, which is something we have talked about several times here. That doesn’t mean they’ll take a cheap route, just that they won’t reallocate everything that was otherwise earmarked for the megastar.

“The reality is they’re not spending $500-600 million on everybody else because everybody else doesn’t happen to be this guy,” Levine explained. “This guy is a once-in-a-lifetime Michael Jordan type of player for this sport, and that is why you’re ponying up this amount of money…Will the Cubs spend money if he doesn’t get signed? Yes they will. Will it be that amount of money? No.

“But I think they will be approaching somewhere around $240-250 million, which would be an increase of probably $70 million from last year.”

That kind of scratch will pay for some pretty serious additions via both free agency and trade, so Hoyer and Carter Hawkins can still make several moves to improve the roster. Speaking of which, there’s been a lot of talk about a possible Tyler Glasnow trade. Levine predicted earlier that a deal would get done during the Winter Meetings, which could still be possible.

What’s not possible unless multiple other players are involved is a deal that would send Christopher Morel to Tampa straight-up for Glasnow. As it turns out, Hoyer’s “stern words” for USA Today’s Bob Nightengale were about the writer’s report that Morel was being discussed.

“Hoyer was upset about the fact that Christopher Morel’s name was out there being bandied about for Tyler Glasnow of the Tampa Rays,” Levine said. “And they have been talking to the Tampa Rays and Tyler Glasnow has a really good chance of ending up as a Chicago Cub pitcher, but that wasn’t the trade. They hadn’t talked about Morel.

“So what Hoyer did was before he talked to the general media in his session yesterday, he told him…’Hey, you were wrong about this. We don’t like our guy Morel’s name being out there when he wasn’t mentioned and I’m letting you know you’re wrong on the story. So you should retract it.'”

Levine added that Nightengale told him nothing was mentioned about Ohtani during a conversation that lasted all of 20 seconds, though I still find it very interesting that Nightengale’s report was subsequently edited. After originally citing “one high-ranking official” as the source behind the news of the Cubs falling out of the Ohtani sweepstakes, the wording was changed to “a high-ranking Cubs official.”

Seems at least mildly interesting that two different reporters have now shared financial-related information regarding the Cubs’ pursuit of Ohtani. Maybe that’s just me.

I think it’s pretty safe to assume we won’t be seeing Ohtani at Wrigley Field in anything other than a visiting uniform, though the possibility of pushing payroll past the CBT threshold is very promising. Now let’s get some news.

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