What Cubs fans will pay for traded players
“There’s always next year” is a refrain once again in full effect for Cubs fans.
The team is long out of playoff contention and has been shuffling its roster in advance of Wednesday’s trade deadline. But for businesses that stock Cubs merchandise, there’s little relief as they try to sell jerseys of players heading out of town.
“We’re always aware of [the trade deadline],” says Chris Strong, store supervisor at Wrigleyville Sports just across the street from Wrigley Field. “Once we see that Cubs players are being moved around, that’s when we start to bring out the clearance gun and start knocking prices down.”
Strong’s gun has been getting a workout. The Cubs dealt pitcher Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers in exchange for prospects last Monday. On Friday, the team traded longtime outfielder Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees.
“With players being traded away, we get stuck with an excess amount of merchandise that people really don’t want,” Strong says.
Racks of Garza and Soriano jerseys line the walls of Wrigleyville Sports, marked down more than 50 percent. An authentic Garza jersey now can be had for $99.50 as opposed to $199.50 at the beginning of July. A T-shirt bearing Soriano’s name and No. 12 will set you back less than the price of two Big Mac Extra Value Meals.
Strong isn’t sure how much money his store stands to lose as a result of this year’s trade deadline deals but says it’s a significant amount. “People want current or they want players who have proven themselves with Hall of Fame status,” he says.
Count Cubs fan Jason Janota among that crowd.
He was perusing the racks of merchandise at Wrigleyville Sports not long after Soriano was traded Friday. Janota says despite the lower prices, he’s not interested in investing in the team’s recent past.
“You like to wear players that are on the team or old throwbacks, the Hall of Famers,” he said. “I have a bunch of old Cubs jerseys from players that are no longer here that I will not wear in the stadium just because the players aren’t here anymore.”
But not all Wrigleyville merchants find themselves stuck with unwanted replica jerseys and T-shirts.
Clark Street Sports has no Garza merchandise and is down to very few pieces of Soriano, says owner Jason Caref, largely because he and his business partners hedged their bets.
“Every offseason, there’s rumors of them being traded,” he says. “Between their performance and the Cubs performance, there was no reason to risk buying a bunch of Soriano or Garza merchandise the past couple of years. We didn’t lose hardly anything.”
How far he discounts merchandise of a recently departed player depends on the player’s popularity.
“The merchandise pretty much goes at least 50 percent off when a player gets traded,” Caref says. “Unless he’s really popular. It’s funny because Mark DeRosa, he wasn’t a big star on the Cubs but had such an appeal with the fans that we didn’t need to mark him down even after he was traded.”
After all, the Cubs aren’t the only ones investing in players’ futures.
Caref says he and his team monitor the sports pages and blogs to help protect their bottom line.
“We need to know who’s going to be on the team, who the Cubs are investing in,” he says. “If the Cubs invest in a player, it’s probably smart for us to go ahead and invest in that player. Doesn’t mean it always pans out.”
So who brings in the biggest bucks?
“I would say probably Anthony Rizzo,” Strong says. “We’ve sold a lot of his jerseys and T-shirts this year. I’d say he’d be the biggest devastating loss for us.”
Of course, any damage appears to be mitigated by the fact that the Cubs are flat-out lousy right now.
“There is no gold on the Cubs team right now,” Caref says. “Rizzo is probably their biggest star but I think he’s hitting less than .250. It’s not like his name and number T’s are flying off the shelf either.”