Chicago Cubs: Signing Bryce Harper is unlikely due to luxury tax threshold

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals reacts after making an out against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on September 23, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals reacts after making an out against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on September 23, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs have had a very quiet offseason to this point and it will likely remain that way due to the large amount of money already committed to their payroll.

Even though players such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel still remain unsigned, it seems unlikely that the Chicago Cubs will bring any of these players into the fold ahead of next season.

According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com on Twitter, Kris Bryant even went as far as stating that Harper will not sign with the Cubs this offseason.  Despite the quote from Bryant, the decision to not sign Harper or other free agents is mostly due to a long history of an unwillingness to exceed the luxury tax threshold.

Despite receiving an estimated $457.00 million in yearly revenue, the Chicago Cubs are once again on track to avoid paying a competitive balance tax as their payroll currently sits at roughly $205.40 million (according to Spotrac’s MLB team payroll tracker).  As the luxury tax threshold has been set at $206.00 million for next season, the organization currently has roughly $600,000 left to spend on the current free agent class.  This leaves just enough room in the payroll to fit a minimum salary contract of $550,000.

As the Cubs do not have the financial flexibility to extend anything over a minimum salary contract at the moment, previous underperforming signings loom larger than ever.  After all, if the front office did not sign any of the uninspiring quartet (to this point) of Jason Heyward, Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, and Brandon Morrow, they could have potentially had an additional $61.50 million to spend on the current free agent class.

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Another factor of the slow offseason could be the question mark surrounding the amount of money the organization expects to receive in a television deal after this season.  The Cubs are entering the last season of their current TV deal, but they are joining forces with the Sinclair Broadcast Group to launch their own regional sports network ahead of the 2020 season.

The new network will be called “Marquee” and it will likely be similar to the YES Network started by the New York Yankees back in 2002.  Although teams throughout the sports world can normally expect to receive a large amount of income alongside a new TV deal, this venture currently leaves a large income question mark until the organization is able to iron out the details on how the new network will be available.

As it is unknown if Marquee will be sold to television providers such as the YES Network or if it will be a standalone service such as the WWE Network, the organization may not fully know what to expect to receive in TV revenue after the upcoming season.  Due to this, the Cubs may be more motivated than ever to stay beneath the luxury tax threshold until their future TV revenue stream is set in stone.

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Unless players such as Heyward and Chatwood are able to be traded to another team in the form of a salary dump, the current group of players are going to be tasked with reaching the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.  In order to accomplish the overall goal of returning to the postseason, the Chicago Cubs are going to rely heavily on Darvish returning to his Cy Young finalist form and Bryant returning to his MVP form.