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4 takeaways from Mayor Tom Ricketts’ address


MESA, Ariz. — For the past 15 years, Chicago Cubs President Tom Ricketts’ speech to the team on the first full team day of practice has remained consistent.

Treat Cubs fans like gold. Remember how important this team is to so many people.

Ricketts conveyed this once again to the 59 players in major league camp before the Cubs’ first practice on Monday. Although the players in front of him remain largely the same as last season’s postseason winless squad, this camp represents his first opportunity. Coach Craig Counsell will leave his mark on the team.

Ricketts believes the Cubs “absolutely” have what they need to be better than last year, and he said he feels president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer had a really good offseason.

“I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be preferred for our division this year,” Ricketts said. “Every year we don’t make the postseason is a disappointment. … Once you make the playoffs, everyone has a chance. That’s what we need to focus on, being a team that makes the playoffs as often as possible. That has to be our No. 1 priority.”

Here are four takeaways from Ricketts’ media session after addressing the team:

1. Ricketts doesn’t foresee the baseball budget expanding without increased revenue.

The Cubs still have leeway under the collective bargaining tax threshold if they want to join the roster.

Projected CBT payroll is currently around $205 million, which is well below the starting threshold of $237 million for the 2024 season. Ricketts and Hoyer never disclose specific figures for the annual baseball operations budget, but decisions on how to best allocate resources fall under Hoyer’s purview.

If fans expect the Cubs to invest more in payroll with a core group of players over the next three years, those hopes are unlikely to come to fruition.

“Basically the budget is set when we’re covering expenses effectively, so we’re not saying ‘okay, we’re going to spend some now and go for this or the championship window,'” Ricketts said. “We’re trying to be consistent. The goal is to be one of those teams that always try to win the division and have that opportunity every year. I’m trying to look at the budget in a much more consistent way than just going one year.”

The Cubs had previously crossed the CBT threshold under Ricketts family ownership. But Ricketts noted Monday that in order for Hoyer’s budget to increase, the Cubs must similarly increase their revenues.

“You can forget, we have a lot of revenue but we pay a lot of taxes, $20 million a year to keep the ballpark together,” Ricketts said. “We have a lot of expenses that other teams don’t do. We’re right there around CBT levels. That’s been a natural place for us and that should be enough for us to win our league and be consistent year after year.”

Photos: Inside Cubs spring training camp

It was impossible to ignore the Los Angeles Dodgers’ spending in the offseason between Shohei Ohtani’s record $700 million deal and Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s $325 million contract. Ricketts did not want to comment on how other teams spend, saying only that the Dodgers have a much different economic situation than other MLB teams because of their television deal.

“Their television revenues will continue to rise in the future while everyone else’s is plummeting,” Ricketts said. “So they will have that advantage going forward for a long time.”

2. Ricketts will not participate in Cody Bellinger’s contract negotiations.

Cubs center fielder Cody Bellinger bats at Wrigley Field on August 30, 2023. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

If Bellinger eventually returns to the CubsThis won’t be because Ricketts becomes more hands-on in contract discussions.

He made it clear that he would not contact Bellinger’s agent, Scott Boras, and said going directly to the team owner for contract negotiations was “one of Scott’s signature moves.”

“When you do that, you undermine your general manager’s credibility, so I don’t think it would do any good to insert yourself into that negotiation,” Ricketts said. “That’s why I don’t talk to him.

“We are waiting for when he and his manager will step in. It could happen at any time, it could happen for a few weeks. We’ll see where it goes.”

While the Cubs play the waiting game, the opposite would be a more proactive approach; They try to make a deal happen sooner or later. Ricketts made it clear that the Cubs have met with Bellinger’s side, but that hasn’t turned into a negotiation yet.

“So there’s not much we can do until they’re actually ready to negotiate,” Ricketts said. “You have to wait for the situation to get serious before you start talking about what the monetary amounts are.”

3. Wrigley Field still has hurdles to host an All-Star game.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced last week: his current five-year term will be his last One of his final decisions at this position will be to award 2027 and 2028 All-Star appearances. Manfred specifically mentioned the Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays as candidates to host a game; this was something neither team had done since 1990 and 1991 respectively.

“I was very impressed by two things about these two years,” Manfred said. “First of all, when was the last time you played a match? Toronto holds up to this variant quite well. I think Chicago is older. … The city’s willingness to take action on these issues is another big variable.”

Ricketts didn’t want to get into specifics about what the Cubs and the city would need to do to secure a Midsummer Classic, beyond noting that the issues were purely safety-related.


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