Cubs debt is getting in the way

Updated: June 4, 2011, 3:56 PM ET
By Buster Olney

For any Chicago Cubs fan hoping that Prince Fielder or some other star would wind up in Wrigley as a free agent this winter, what follows is not good news: The team's debt will impact the Cubs' pursuit of free agents, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has greatly impressed executives with other teams. They think he's smart; they think he's a natural leader; they think he gets it. And Ricketts is going to need all of those skills in the years ahead, in placating Cubs fans thirsting for a winner.

The easiest thing in the world for Ricketts to do would be to go after Albert Pujols or Fielder and perhaps land one of those stars, but Fielder might be one more pricey Band-Aid for an organization already crippled by immovable long-term contracts.

Alfonso Soriano is right in the middle of an eight-year deal, with subpar results, and Milton Bradley didn't make it to the halfway point of his contract. The Cubs gave the green light last year to Kosuke Fukudome's agent to seek a trade and there were none to be had. Whether it's fair or not, Aramis Ramirez is regarded by some rival scouts as one of the most disinterested major leaguers in uniform. And Carlos Zambrano has garnered more attention for dugout explosions and broken bats than for his pitching. Those five players essentially account for about $70 million of what the Cubs are spending in payroll this year.