Just because the Cubs are reportedly unwilling to napalm the competitive balance tax thresholds, that doesn’t mean they’re totally out of the market for a big bat this winter. The whys behind the talk of fiscal conservativism are many and varied, but for the purposes of this piece we’re going to assume the very consistent reports are accurate.
The common refrain among doubters has been that picking up Cole Hamels’ option is a clear sign that the Cubs are absolutely comfortable spending big. And if they aren’t, goes the logic, it’s the most egregious mistake they could have made this offseason. Except neither of those things is necessarily true.
As Sahadev Sharma wrote for The Athletic (subscription), the Cubs see Hamels as a solidifying force who’s well worth the $20 million option they picked up on him for 2019. And that salary figure can actually be reduced by about $5 million since the Cubs traded Drew Smyly to the Rangers in an accompanying move, plus there’s probably a little more you can take off based on how buyouts are prepaid as part of AAV guarantees.