A 2013 Cubs Contender, Part 1

RC has been insistent about wondering how the Cubs may contend in 2013. I've been meaning to write something about it for some time, but can't help but think the Cubs are a long way away from contention. 2013 doesn't seem possible, but it's always possible. How can they do it?

After thinking about this post for awhile I finally realized what this slogan was all about:


Trying to figure out how the Cubs can contend this year, next year or 5 years from now is the Cubs way of life. It's also the Cubs Way.

Before we can start we have to set a couple parameters. The payroll will be $120 million for our contending team. The Cubs have little or no interest in trading prospects for veterans as it would affect their long-term plan. We won't be trading prospects because of this. This is one person's plan. There could be a million of them. I've split this into multiple parts because it would just to be too long to have as one post.

We need to figure out who the Cubs have, how good they are expected to be and how much money they are going to be paid. We can then begin to build a roster that contends within our estimated payroll. Our goal here is to build a contender for 2013, which means we're not going to be trading valuable assets like Matt Garza. Or Ryan Dempster for that matter. The goal is to contend next year and both of them are valuable beyond what they're paid or will be paid.

The Cubs have only 3 players with guaranteed contracts next season: Carlos Marmol ($9.8 million), David DeJesus ($4.3 million) and Alfonso Soriano ($18 million). Gerardo Concepcion also has a guaranteed contract that pays him $0.6 million next season. Paul Maholm has a $6.5 million option or a $0.5 million buyout. The Cubs have $31.8 million guaranteed next season to those 5 players. One of them is highly unlikely to be of any value at the MLB level and the other may or may not be brought back (Maholm).

Arbitration Eligible

Geovany Soto, Blake DeWitt and Matt Garza are eligible for the final time. Randy Wells, Chris Volstad and Ian Stewart are eligible for the 2nd time while Starlin Castro will be eligible for the first time.

Garza and Castro aren't going anywhere for our contending team. Wells and DeWitt are gone. If Soto bounces back at all this season it becomes interesting whether or not ot keep him, but for now he's gone. We'll look at Stewart later, but for now he's on the bubble.

Garza is likely to earn $13 million in arbitration. We'll lock him up to a long-term deal to lower that total in a bit. Castro, eligible for the first time, could see a raise up to somewhere as low as $3 million and maybe as much as $6 million. I'm going to guess it's somewhere in between and we'll call it $4.5 million and move on.

Since we're going to be contending we're going to go ahead and sign Garza long-term. We already calculated Garza's value and found that he's worth a 5-year, $63 million extension. Here's how we'll pay him from 2013 through 2017: $8 million followed by $13.75 million each of the remaining 4 seasons.

Garza would no longer qualify as an arbitration player at this point, but one of our guaranteed contract. Those are now up to $39.8 million.

Castro is the only player we're definitely locking up in arbitration and we already decided to go with $4.5 million. Our tentative total at this point is $44.3 million.

Free Agents

Ryan Dempster is really the only free agent we'd consider re-signing. In fact, this team is a contender so we're re-signing him. The Cubs aren't going to get more value for less money on the free agent market. We'll give Dempster a 2-year deal for $20 million. Our 2013 total is now up to $54.3 million.

Our roster

We already have $54.3 million committed, but only the following players under contract in this experiment: Carlos Marmol, David DeJesus, Alfonso Soriano, Matt Garza, Starlin Castro and Ryan Dempster. We could later decide to bring back the likes of Volstad, Wells and Stewart, but for now, just those 6.

Value

Let's estimate their value. We don't have to be precise. This isn't about being precise. Teams aren't going to decide if they're a contender by calculating the WAR as best as possible and going from there. I'm coming up with about 12 WAR from those 6 players (Garza 3.5, Dempster 2, Castro 3.5, DeJesus 2, Soriano 1, Marmol 0).

A replacement level team wins 48.6 games so we're only up to 60 wins. We have to add at least 25 wins while keeping the payroll within a reasonable budget. We'll say $120 million. So we have $65.7 million to spend.

In the next part we'll take a look at the free agents and see where we can most improve and how much it will cost. We'll also add in the cost controlled players like Anthony Rizzo, Brian LaHair and maybe Brett Jackson to get a better idea where we're really at.

This is where I'm going to ask you for some help. Throw some free agent names around for me. Who do you think the Cubs could target to help them contend next year? Throw out a contract amount and I'll go from there.

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