Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts heard his share of boos at the Cubs Convention on Friday while the team remains quiet in free agency.
Coming off a season in which the Cubs fell short of the playoffs, Chicago has yet to add significant pieces or sign its core players to extensions. Former NL MVP Kris Bryant has been on the trade market throughout the offseason, beloved former manager Joe Maddon is gone and the team is no longer the favorite in the NL Central. There's uncertainty in Wrigleyville for the first time since the Cubs returned to prominence in 2015, and the Convention's usually positive atmosphere has soured.
“I’m sorry we don’t have a prize free agent or something sexier to talk about right now,” Ricketts said in an interview with WSCR-AM 670 on Day 2 of the Cubs Convention.
To add to the tension, fans also brought heavy boos when Ricketts mentioned the "Marquee Sports Network," the Cubs' new television outlet set to launch in February. With the new season approaching, the network has yet to make a deal with Comcast's Xfinity—the area's largest carrier—keeping some fans without a method to watch the team.
Following his appearance, Ricketts insisted that fans did not necessarily boo him, saying that they were "worried about change" and that he is confident a deal will get done.
Meanwhile, Ricketts hinted that the MLB competitive balance tax may keep the Cubs from keeping all of the team's 2016 World Series-winning core together.
“It’s not the only factor, but it’s certainly something that got put into the last collective bargaining agreement, and we have to work with it,” Ricketts told the Score’s David Haugh and Bruce Levine.
Chicago has yet to finalize extensions with Bryant and shortstop Javier Báez, who is set to hit free agency after the 2021 season. Bryant has filed a grievance against the Cubs for manipulating his service time when they delayed his major-league debut a few weeks in 2015. Right now, Bryant will become a free agent at the same time Báez does, but if he wins his case against the club (which is unlikely), he will enter free agency at the end of the 2020 season.
“It would be awesome to keep everyone together,” Ricketts said. “That would be great. But the reality is the way players work their way toward free agency makes it difficult.”