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Ricketts: Cubs waiting for talks with Bellinger to 'become a negotiation'

Ryan Herrera Avatar
February 19, 2024

MESA, Ariz. — The latest twist in the Cody Bellinger free-agency saga came from none other than Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts himself.

Monday was the first official full-squad workout of spring training for the Cubs. Of course, Bellinger wasn’t in attendance. The former Cub is still on the market as his side, led by agent Scott Boras, has taken its time in the process.

Fans have grown tired of waiting to see if a reunion will happen. They’re frustrated with the lack of any concrete information regarding negotiations from both sides. But as Ricketts revealed, while there have been talks, those haven’t “become a negotiation yet.”

“Until they’re ready to really negotiate, then there’s not much we can do,” he said. “I don’t tell [president of baseball operations] Jed [Hoyer] what to do, but I also imagine, like, you just have to wait for when it gets serious before you start talking about what the end of money amounts are. So, we’ll just see where it goes.”

Reports have said that Bellinger’s camp is looking for a contract worth $200 million-plus. For there to not have been full-blown negotiations signals the Cubs’ valuation is likely well below that.

On one side, Boras is known for being willing to let these things play out. He’s one of the most powerful agents in the business for a reason. He’s got a knack for getting his clients deals that from an outside perspective appear to be above-market, and some may even say his methods are bad for the sport. Regardless, Boras has remained unfazed, even as spring camps across the league have begun.

But on the other side is Hoyer, who is also someone that holds firm to the Cubs’ valuations on players. Whether that means years or dollars, he hasn’t shown himself to be an executive who’ll give out major deals to players if it could come at the expense of the team’s future.

Hoyer has talked many times about wanting to compete now but also keeping an eye on the future, and he’s willing to hold firm on a line so an addition won’t upset that balance.

“He definitely sees that you can only spend every dollar once, and he knows that you don’t wanna have too many long-term contracts when you have a lot of young guys that are coming up through the minors,” Ricketts said. “I think he’s always done a really nice job of balancing the present and the future in everything he does.”

From the outside, the Cubs still appear to be the favorites to land Bellinger. They of course have the resources for a big-money deal, and he’d fill spots on the roster that can still be considered question marks.

Unless another suitor emerges who’s willing to match Boras’ asking price, he and the Cubs will probably have to start negotiating eventually. But if that happens, Ricketts is going to let Hoyer run the show.

He’s not the kind of owner who wants to intimately involved in that process. So, if that time comes, he won’t be the one negotiating with Boras.

“I don’t talk to Scott,” Ricketts said. “I think one of his signature moves is to go talk to the owner, but I think when you do that, you undermine the credibility of your general manager. Inserting yourself into that negotiation, I don’t think that helps.”

Bellinger’s free agency has stretched for over three months now, and it’s threatening to go on even longer.

Which team will eventually land him? What will his contract ultimately look like?

All of that could be answered by the Cubs themselves, but for now, they seem willing to play the waiting game.

“I’m like everyone else; we’re just waiting,” Ricketts said. “Waiting for whenever he and his agent are gonna engage. It could be anytime now, or it could be a few weeks. We’ll just see where it goes.”

Other notes from Ricketts

  • The Cubs last hosted an All-Star Game in 1990. That could change in the next few years, as Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred last week seemed to hint the Cubs could be a candidate to host either the 2027 or 2028 All-Star Game.

    Ricketts said the franchise is indeed working to bring the Midsummer Classic back to Wrigley Field. However, some hurdles remain before it can return to Wrigleyville, which he did acknowledge are “largely” security-related.

    “There’s a few things we have to work out with the city, and we’ve gotten snagged, but I think we’re getting closer,” Ricketts said. “We’ll hopefully know more pretty soon, but it’s not as simple as it looks. A lot of teams want the All-Star Games. They are big economic drivers for the city. And so, they’re not easy to get, but there’s some things we have to work out with the city.”
  • It was a tough end to the 2023 season for the Cubs. Players and coaches and front office members alike have talked about how painful it was to not cross the finish line and get to the postseason.

    You can count Ricketts in that group, too.

    “It was rough,” he said. “We lost those games in Atlanta, and I was like, ‘Well, the Braves are a pretty good team. I guess that’s just the way it’s gonna be.’ And I thought maybe it was over, but then the other teams didn’t finish strong either. So, that Friday night game we lost in Milwaukee, that one I couldn’t sleep after. That was a tough one. That’s a game we could’ve won, and if we would’ve won, we still had a shot. That was a tough one to lose. I lost a night of sleep on that one.”
  • When it comes to giving the team a big speech at the start of spring training, Ricketts has kept it consistent over the last 15 years. For the players in camp to start spring 2024, here’s the message he delivered:

    “Just treat our fans like gold. I like to remind the players that this team means so much to so many people. We’re all just honored and blessed to be part of an organization that has so many fans and how much those fans care. And so, I just like to remind the guys that the No. 1 thing for me in the world is treating fans great.”

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