Cubs not handcuffed by owner situation
Chairman Kenney says team is free to add payroll, make moves
LAS VEGAS -- The Cubs have the freedom to add payroll for 2009 and are not restricted while the ownership situation remains unresolved, team chairman Crane Kenney said Tuesday.
Kenney joined the Cubs contingent at the Bellagio hotel, one day after the parent Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy. That move did not include the Cubs or Wrigley Field, the team said, and officials say it's business as usual.
There have been reports that Cubs general manager Jim Hendry's hands are tied and he cannot add salary, such as the money owed to Jake Peavy, whom the Padres are trying to deal. Peavy will make $11 million in 2009 and is owed $63 million over the next four seasons.
But Kenney said the Cubs don't have to wait for a new owner to make a move.
"All of our efforts here are about improving the team," Kenney said. "If it means a longer-term contract that fits within the budget, then that's what it will be. If it means, as Jim has talked about, multi-team deals, we'll do that. [Hendry and staff] have a very good game plan, and they're executing it. My role here is to make sure that we get as much as we can within the parameters of our budget."
There are at least three bidders for the Cubs, and all three groups have been updated on the team's proposed budget for '09 and beyond. Kenney also can contact them if needed.
"We would love the luxury of talking to the ownership, a group, a new owner, or if we need to, go to all the prospective owners if something really larger than just the five years comes about," Kenney said. "But we think within the budget we have, we have enough room to do most of the things we need to do.
"You can't predict the future," he said, "so if something came along where we were out-sized and we felt we wanted to get some input from a prospective owner, I wouldn't have a problem talking to the groups and letting them know what we were thinking of doing and letting them have input."
The Cubs' 2008 payroll was about $130 million and will increase in '09, partly because of prorated contracts to players.
The team has been for sale since April 2007, but that hasn't stopped Hendry from giving a contract extension to Carlos Zambrano, adding Reed Johnson, or acquiring Rich Harden. The Cubs also gave Hendry a four-year extension this offseason and added another year for manager Lou Piniella, now signed through 2010.
"We thought all of those were smart long-term and short-term moves," Kenney said, "and we'll continue to operate with that perspective on '09 and the out years."
Hendry said Tuesday he is well aware of the parameters he has.
"I have had a lot of conversations with Crane, and we wouldn't be in pursuit of any player or players if we didn't feel we had an avenue to make it work," Hendry said. "Everything I work on or we talk about, we keep Crane totally involved. We're proceeding forward with our baseball decisions under the guidelines of our present payroll."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.