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NL Notes: Epstein, Cubs, Broxton, Braves, Dodgers

The Cubs’ reported lack of spending capacity has been the offseason’s main storyline out of Wrigley Field, though in a recent radio interview on 670 The Score (partial transcript here), president of baseball operations Theo Epstein dismissed the idea that the Competitive Balance Tax is “dictating any of our actions or inactions this winter at all.”  In regards to the $206MM threshold, “there are times when strategically you want to make sure you’re under it or where you don’t mind going above it. This isn’t one of those offseasons where strategically it makes a heckuva lot of difference to us,” Epstein said.  “It’s just sort of traditional budgeting. You spend what you have. You don’t spend what you don’t have….We have more than enough resources to win, and that’s the way we’re going to continue to approach it.”

It should be noted that the Cubs are already over the CBT threshold, as Roster Resource calculates a luxury tax figure of slightly under $228.5MM for the current 40-man roster.  If crossing the $206MM line altogether isn’t a concern for Epstein and his front office, a bigger issue could be the $246MM threshold, which would trigger a larger tax payment for the Cubs and a ten-position drop in the first round of the 2020 draft.  If this estimated $17.5MM of payroll space is what the team really has to work with, it still doesn’t leave room for a major addition like Bryce Harper, who has been rumored as a target if the Cubs can shave some more salaries off the books.

Here’s more from around the National League…

  • The Brewers’ deep outfield and Keon Broxton’s out-of-options status made him a trade chip for the club, GM David Stearns told reporters (including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt) in the aftermath of the trade that sent Broxton to the Mets.  “Teams are smart, so they looked at our outfield situation and saw we had a couple of out-of-option players who are talented,” Stearns said.  “Teams have been poking around on Keon since the end of the season. We discussed scenarios with different teams and this is the one that finally went over the (finish) line.”  In regards to any outfield additions, Stearns said the team will do its due diligence, but overall, “we are comfortable with the options we have at this point.”
  • “There’s no timetable for a resolution” in the dispute between the Braves and first-round draft pick Carter Stewart, Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.  As detailed by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) in early October, the MLBPA filed a grievance claiming that Stewart failed to reach an agreement with the Braves after his physical turned up ligament damage in his wrist, and he’s now seeking to be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. The grievance alleges that the Braves did not offer Stewart 40 percent of his slot value, which is the minimum offer that must be made to a player in order to receive a compensation pick in the following year’s draft.  Stewart was the eighth overall pick in the 2018 draft, so Atlanta stands to be picking ninth overall in the 2019 draft unless Stewart’s grievance results in a favorable ruling for the young right-hander.  Needless to say, it would be a big setback for the Braves if they missed out on such a high pick and received no compensation whatsoever, so this situation is certainly worth monitoring in the coming weeks or months until some decision is finally reached.
  • “The degree to which the Dodgers pursue [Bryce] Harper will say a lot about where they are headed as a franchise,” Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times opines.  The Dodgers have been rumored to be suitors for Harper all winter, particularly since the team created outfield space and luxury tax space in the Yasiel Puig/Matt Kemp trade with the Reds.  Rather than a long-term mega-deal for Harper, however, the Dodgers have reportedly been more interested in offering shorter-term contracts with a higher average annual value, though Hernandez wonders why money is suddenly an object for a big-market franchise that spent freely for years.  Hernandez argues that L.A. fans won’t be impressed by a sudden restraint in spending, particularly after a season that saw the Dodgers duck under the luxury tax threshold and thus perhaps leave themselves short-handed for the World Series.

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