A 2013 Cubs Contender, Part 2

About 10 days ago we looked at what the Cubs have in terms of guaranteed contracts and we also signed Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza to long-term extensions. Since it's been 10 days I'll post the most relevant information here and we can move forward.

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.


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).

I pointed out we'd need to add 25 wins while keeping the payroll at $120 million. Let's add in some of the cost-controlled players the Cubs have and see where were at.

Using rWAR, fWAR and gWAR Darwin Barney averaged 1.8 WAR last season. So far this year his average WAR is 1.5 already. Barney isn't a great play by any means, but he does provide value. And he provides it cheaply. He'll be earning league minimum next season and I see no reason why we can't pencil him in for 2 WAR next year. Maybe a bit higher, but again, we don't need to be perfect.

The rest of season ZiPS for Bryan LaHair is a .350 wOBA and 1.4 WAR. We could count on him for 2 WAR also, but we do have Anthony Rizzo. I feel comfortable enough or at least optimistic enough to say we should look for about 3 WAR for Rizzo so he's playing 1B. We'll move LaHair to the outfield.

That means the end of Alfonso Soriano's career as a Cub. The Cubs won't get anything in return and probably won't be able to even get the slightest salary relief either. Soriano's gone, his $18 million stays. LF improves from 1 WAR to 2.

We've added only $1.3 million in salary and already improved the team by 6 wins. We still hvae a lot of money to spend and we need 19 more wins.

We're still in need of a catcher, 3B and a centerfielder. The Cubs have options in-house for both positions and due to Soto's decline and the money he'll get in arbitation we're going to non-tender him. If he turns thing around when he returns from injury things may change, but for now he's just not worth what he'll be paid. Especially not when the Cubs have two capable catchers in Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo. Currently the two players have rest of season ZiPS that add up to 1.5 WAR over about 500 plate appearances. If you platoon the two I see no reason you can't expect league average (2 WAR) from behind the plate next season for under $1 million.

We may look to the free agent market to fill the hole in CF and at 3B. The Cubs do have Tony Campana and Brett Jackson who could play the position, but Jackson is struggling in AAA (still better than league average though) and Campana is just Tony Campana. The Cubs have no one to play 3rd.

With the exception of 3B and CF, we've filled out our everyday players: Clevenger, Castillo behind the plate, Rizzo at 1st, Barney at 2nd, Castro at SS, LaHair in LF and DeJesus in RF. Along with the pitchers under contract in our experiment here the 2013 Cubs payroll is $56.7 million and they provide 20 WAR. We have roughly $65 million to spend and we need 17 more wins.

Let's sign Josh Hamilton. I know some people don't like the idea, but I'm a huge fan. The Cubs need a super star and Hamilton is just that. Aisle 424 made a very good point about how disastrous it could turn out for Hamilton considering the media and fans expectations, but I think it's fair to expect that the Cubs management establish a support system for Hamilton to better ensure he doesn't suffer a relapse.

At the same time it's more than fair to expect Hamilton to remain sober. Speaking of sobriety, I was wondering if we could calculate the probability that someone uses drugs or alcohol again. I'm sure we could and I wouldn't be surprised if someone has written about this before, but I do know the longer you've been sober the less likely it is that you relapse. Hamilton has had at least one relapse that we know of, but to the best of our knowledge he never sunk back into the bad habits that he had before.

If I was to make a wild-ass guess I'd say that within the first month of sobriety there's a 95% chance that a person relapses. The probabilities would be different based on drugs and especially for alcohol since it's legal and socially acceptable, but let's stick with crack cocaine and similar drugs. It's got to be 95% relapse rate within the first month of sobriety. After 2 months it's probably somewhere around 75% and by the end of the first year it's probably down to 50%.

It probably doesn't change very quickly at that point. I know that I wasn't yet comfortable with my sobriety after 2 years and I know others have said the same thing to me. That could just be fear. It could be that they're still having a lot of urges to use. After 2 years sober I'd probably have said there's a 25% chance I relapse. After 3 years I was confident I wouldn't, but also prepared for it. It can happen after 1 week, 3 years or 15 years. But I felt good about my chances after 3 years. After 5 years I found I had to think about how long I'd been sober. At that point the probability of me relapsing was probably less than 3% and that's about where it remains today.

This varies for each person, but I'd think we could get a general estimate of a person's probability of relapsing. Hamilton has been mostly sober for several years now. He has a solid support system that he's used on more than one occasion and probably many occasions. I'd feel comfortable with the Cubs giving him a contract and him staying sober. I wouldn't be surprised by a relapse one night, but I would be surprised if he went back to the life that he once had.

I'm not sure what kind of contract it would take overall to sign Hamilton, but I'm positive the Cubs could sign him and have less than $20 million go towards 2013 payroll. We'll just go with $20 million, which increases our payroll to $76.7 million leaving us with $45 million to spend. Hamilton is projected to provide 3.4 WAR the rest of the season so expecting 5 WAR out of him next year seems more than reasonable.

$45 million to spend and we need 12 wins.

One player we haven't talked about is Jeff Samardzija. What is he actually is a good pitcher? We could be unreasonable and say he's awesome and pencil him in for 4 or 5 WAR, but based on his ZiPS rest of season I think we could expect 2 WAR from him for about $4 million. Now we're down to needing 10 wins and we still have $41 million to spend.

There are a number of free agent options this team could go after, particularly starting pitchers and we'll discuss a few of them in the next article. 10 wins is a lot to add, but we've created a situation in which they do have the money to do just that.