The question to Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber about how money changes people wasn’t even finished when a first baseman with rabbit ears piped in from four lockers away Wednesday.
‘‘Money talks,’’ Anthony Rizzo said, smiling.
If that wasn’t a tone-setter for the start of Cubs spring training, consider it at least another voice in a growing chorus of players critical of the game’s economic squeeze on salaries — and more focused on upcoming collective-bargaining negotiations than players have been in a generation.
‘‘I think the luxury tax wasn’t meant to be a salary cap, and teams are treating it like that,’’ Rizzo told the Sun-Times. ‘‘Are you sacrificing winning a championship to be under the tax threshold? Who knows? We don’t know that.’’
Nobody disputes the fact that payroll-budget limitations the last two winters prevented the Cubs’ front office from making the kinds of roster improvements it desired.
So it’s certainly not a leap to suggest those threshold-minded budgets contributed to just enough weak links and soft spots to prevent the Cubs from winning the National League Central in 2018 and missing the playoffs in 2019.
‘You’ve seen it the last two years with us: We haven’t gone out [and signed big free agents],’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘But the few years before that, we’ve gone out and signed megadeals.’’
The Cubs averaged 97 victories and reached three consecutive NL Championship Series in 2015-17, winning the 2016 World Series along the way.