Tom Ricketts decides to go to war with the rooftop owners over Wrigley Field renovations

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The Cubs and the rooftop owners have been in rancorous negotiations for a year over the Wrigley Field renovation. The upshot: owner Tom Ricketts wants to pay for renovations, in part, by putting up big billboards behind the bleachers. The rooftop owners — who have a deal with the Cubs which pays the team part of the proceeds they get for their little rooftop seats and parties looking into the ballpark — say that doing so violates the contract and that, if the Cubs go through with the plan, they’ll sue.

This move by the Cubs is not, therefore, one which is likely to lead to a quick resolution:

Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts is offering a new pitch to long-suffering fans as he struggles to get a Wrigley Field renovation underway: If the rooftop owners are going to sue us anyway over blocked views into the stadium, we might as well get more of what we want in an upgraded ballpark.

To that end, he plans to submit a revised proposal to City Hall that would feature more large electronic signs, additional seats, bigger clubhouses and a relocation of the quaint bullpens from foul territory to a spot under the bleachers by removing bricks and some of the iconic ivy and covering the space with a material that would allow relievers to see onto the field, according to a high-ranking Cubs source.

The move was announced in a video from Ricketts to Cubs fans, along with a story from Carrie Muskat of MLB.com with more details about the clubhouse renovation and plans for altered seating and lighting in the outfield.

I feel like Ricketts and the Cubs did some math, figured out how much they’d realistically have to pay out in order to appease the rooftop owners — whose contract ends in 2023 — and decided “screw it, we’ll make the money now and pay them off later if they think they can win.” Of course, to make these changes they have to get city approval and that’s no sure thing given how politically-connected the rooftop people are. It’s gonna get Chicago-ugly pretty soon, one assumes.

In any event, this is either the kiss-off to the rooftops or as hard a negotiating ploy as Ricketts could muster. Fun times.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”