Revisiting the Cubs offseason transactions

Since the Cubs changed management this past offseason I thought it might be fun to look back at the transactions and see how they've turned out so far. Keep in mind these are a final analysis. There's still much time left for some of these deals to look different than they currently do. I considered breaking this into parts, but decided to post it at once instead. 


► November 30, 2011: the Cubs signed David DeJesus

Contract: 2-year, $10 million. The pact pays DeJesus $4.25 million each in 2012 and 2013. There is a $6.5 million option for 2014 or a $1.5 million buyout. 

At the time: DeJesus was worth $15.2 million over 2 years using CAIRO, Bill James and Oliver projections (as well as an increase to them due to him switching leagues). This was prior to any projection for him as a Cub. The PECOTA projection had him worth 1.8 WARP in 2012 and 1.1 WARP in 2013 so it closely matches our early estimate. Picking up the option was probably not going to happen unless DeJesus exceeded expectations.

Early analysis: DeJesus was going to help improve the Cubs defense and baserunning, which had been horrible for some time. He was a solid bat coming off a down season so there was even a reason to think he might actually exceed expectations. Considering the cost, there was really nothing to dislike about the contract.

Performance: He's played in 96 games and about one-third of them have come in CF. He's hit .262/.352/.378. His .320 wOBA comes out to a 95 wRC+, which is the exact same as it was in 2011. UZR thinks he's been a below average fielder (-4) and his UBR only slightly better than average on the bases (0.4). His DRS is -4 in CF and 0 in RF so the two metrics are in agreement about his defense (FRAA has him at -2.9 also).

Overall he's been worth .7 fWAR, .4 rWAR and .2 WARP (Prospectus). Average them if you wish and you get .4. PECOTA projects another .5 WARP the rest of the way, which would give him .7 WARP on the season. We should probably expect by the end of the season he'll be just above 1 WAR, which makes him worth the money he was paid in 2012 and not likely worth the additional $5.75 million he's owed. Things could change by this time next year, but for now this hasn't been a very good deal for the Cubs. 


► December 8, 2011: Cubs trade Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu for Casey Weathers and Ian Stewart

Contracts:  Colvin could be arbitration eligible after this season, but is currently making about league minimum. DJ LeMahieu would be under club control for 6 years. Stewart was 2nd year arbitration eligible and had already agreed to a 1-year, $2.2 million contract. Casey Weathers had no MLB service time. 

At the time: The trade included 3 picks drafted in the 1st round. The two the Cubs acquired were top 10 picks and Colvin was selected 13th overall. LeMahieu was picked in the 2nd round. 

Early Analysis:  I don't remember having much to say about this trade. I know it wasn't a great trade and it wasn't a bad trade at the time. It was just OK. I think Baseball Prospectus said at the time that there were no winners except for the players who get to move to new teams. The Cubs probably got a bat that was a safer bet to produce, but it came at a higher price. 

Performance: Ian Stewart has hit .201/.292/.335 (.265 wOBA, 58 wRC+) and is done for the season. Both DRS and UZR agree he's a slightly better than average fielder, which is a huge upgrade from Aramis Ramirez. However, Ramirez more than made up for his defensive issues and Stewart has not come close. His FWAR is 0.0, rWAR is -0.1 and WARP is -0.7 (average of -0.2). Considering the salary, the Cubs haven't come close to getting what they've paid for and he's now someone who is likely to be non-tendered. 

Casey Weathers spent much of the season injured and overall he's in AA at the age of 27. He's thrown 28.2 innings and has an ERA of 5.97 and an FIP approaching 7. The guy walks everybody on the planet. You could face Weathers and you'd be 0-0 with a walk. Get this, Weathers has a really good strikeout rate, but his walk rate is higher than his strikeout rate. Hard to believe.

DJ Lemanieu has had a couple stints with the Rockies this season and it hasn't gone well in 31 games. He was league average at AAA, which doesn't say a whole lot.

Tyler Colvin has once again found his power stroke. In 258 PA he's batting .282/.318/.560 with a .367 wOBA, which is good for a 121 wRC+. He's played primarily in RF, but has also logged a lot of innings in CF, LF and 1B. The defensive metrics are in agreement that he's been below average. FRAA is the highest for him and it's -0.1. He's been worth 1.3 fWAR, 0.6 WARP and 0.8 rWAR (average 0.9). He'll surely regress some (ZiPS has him at .338 wOBA the rest of the way compared to .303 for Stewart). 

This is a trade the Cubs would like to have a do over on. It's not one of those trades they'll regret forever. Tyler Colvin has proven he belongs on an MLB roster although he may not be an everyday starter. Factoring in the salary you'd obviously prefer the left handed hitting outfielder who is working at league minimum to someone like Stewart. Add in the fact that Lemahieu might actually provide some depth to an organization at some point and the secondary players involved in the trade make this an obvious win for the Rockies. Not a huge win, but a win.

This trade took place on the final day of the Winter Meetings (Rule 5 Draft). The Cubs also took Lendy Castillo from some organization who probably doesn't regret losing him one damn bit. 

► December 12, 2011: Cubs sign Joe Mather

Contract: He's not yet arbitration eligible. He entered the season with just over 1 year of service time and won't be eligible for arbitration until 2014. 

At the time: Mather was signed along with 9 other players over a 3 week span in December for the purpose of filling out their spring training roster. Even if he managed to make the team he wasn't expected to provide much of anything.

Early Analysis: There was none. It was a transaction that most people though was irrelevant along with the many others they signed. 

Performance: Mather has hit .221/.273/.356. His wOBA is .273 and his wRC+ is 63. He's played all around the field, but primarily at CF and 3B. He's chipped in 51 innings in LF, 7 in RF and all of 2 at 1st. His defense has been average to a bit below average on the season. His fWAR and WARP are both -0.4 and his rWAR is -1.3. The average of the 3 is -0.7. He's only been on the roster because the Cubs suck and the only reason I'm even including him here is because he's stuck at the MLB level all season, but that's not an indication of how he's played. If they were paying him anything more than league minimum he'd be gone and even at league minimum he barely deserves the shot he was given.

► December 23, 2011: Cubs trade Sean Marshall to the Reds for Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes

Contract:  Marshall was owed $3.1 million in 2012. The Reds subsequently extended him through the 2015 season, but that's irrelevant to us. Wood had just over a year of service time so was still a couple years of service time away from being arbitration eligible. Sappelt had 5 to 6 more years before free agency and Torreyes is in High A. 

At the time: Before it was known who the two minor leaguers were, this was a fantastic trade for the Cubs. Wood only for Marshall would have been a good haul. Getting Sappelt and especially Torreyes in the deal only sweetens it. 

Early Analysis: Marshall probably should have been the Cubs closer instead of Marmol over the last 2 to 3 seasons. The Cubs didn't do it and despite Marshall being a setup man, he was still damn valuable. He was just a reliever and the limited innings obviously limited his value, but the Cubs turned a relatively small trade surplus into 3 players. 

Performance: Marshall has kept doing what he'd done in Chicago. He has an impressive 2.36 ERA and 2.32 FIP to go along with 1.1 fWAR. His rWAR is 1.3 and his WARP 1.0 (average 1.1). He's provided value above his salary this year to the Reds.

Travis Wood has had an up and down season. He was terrible in spring training and lost his grip on the rotation. He spent some time in AAA posting a solid, but unspectacular 3.76 FIP even though his ERA 4.57. At the big leagues he hasn't been very good overall. His 4.77 ERA looks good compared to his 5.62 FIP. That's good for -0.2 fWAR. His rWAR is -0.1 and his WARP is 0.2 (average 0.0). Wood is still 25 and there's more than enough reason to think he can contribute something over the next few seasons, but back of the rotation is probably his ceiling at this point. He might be better off as a LOOGY. 

Dave Sappelt hit .256/.311/.345 at AAA this year. That's a .300 wOBA and a 71 wRC+. At 25 years old he probably doesn't have much of any career at the big league level ahead of him. 

Torreyes is only 19 and already at High A where he has hit .271/.332/.399. That's a .338 wOBA and 109 wRC+. Considering how poorly he started, that's quite good. After May his OPS was just a little over .500. He had an OPS of .923 in June and .849 in July. He's kept hitting in August. Considering the age, he's had a damn good season so far. 

The Cubs probably won't get much out of Wood and probably nothing from Sappelt, but they'll probably get enough from Wood to make the trade a good one by the time it ends. There's always the possibility Wood surprises though with his stuff I just wouldn't count on it. The real hope for making this as fantastic a trade as it was at the time is for Torreyes who could have a bright future in front of him.


► January 3, 2012: Cubs sign Reed Johnson

Contract:  1-year, $1.5 million

At the time: After hitting .309/.348/.367 (.354 wOBA, 116 wRC+) in 266 PA in 2011, re-signing Reed Johnson was a no-brainer. In 2011 his average WAR was 1.0 and as a 4th outfielder hitting primarily against lefties it was a safe bet he'd produce again. 

Early Analysis:  For $1.5 million there was no reason to be anything other than happy to get a guy of his quality to return.

Performance: In 183 PA Reed hit .302/.355/.444 prior to being traded to the Braves. His wOBA with the Cubs was .346 (112 wRC+) and he did exactly what the team expected (140 wRC+ vs lefties). 

► January 5, 2012: Cubs trade Carlos Zambrano to Miami Marlins for Chris Volstad

Contract:  Carlos Zambrano and all but the league minimum (about $17.5 million) were sent to the Marlins for Chris Volstad who somehow turned 3 mediocre to bad seasons in a $2.7 million first year arbitration salary. 

At the time: The Cubs should have paid no more than about $10-11 million AND received Chris Volstad or someone like him. This was a bad trade when it was made. If you looked only at the CAIRO projections it matched up perfectly, but there were other projections. That's about the best that can be said: using one projection system the trade wasn't bad. 

Early Analysis:  The Cubs traded away someone who was projected to be worth about 1.1 WAR for someone who was projected to be about replacement level or maybe a little bit better. Not only that, the Cubs send the Marlins buckets of cash and had to pay Volstad more than he ever deserved. It was the Cubs who signed this contract on January 17th. I can't even imagine what Volstad was asking for. There's almost no way he would have won in arbitration. Take the chance. Offer the guy what he's worth, which is about a million bucks or less. Fuck this $2.7 million shit. 

Performance: Volstad has somehow managed enough of a decent FIP (4.27) to be worth .6 fWAR. That's rather impressive considering he's given runs away for free this year. Here, take some runs. I'm Chris Volstad and I don't need them! I've got a decent FIP. Volstad's rWAR is -1.3 and his WARP is 0.0. Average them together and you get -0.2. Not surprisingly, he's been terrible and he's done while making way more money that he should have. And oh yeah, the Cubs sent a billion bucks to Miami too.

Zambrano got off a solid start this year, but his FIP at this point (4.56) matches his FIP from a year ago (4.59). He's struckout a few more batters, but walks a lot more. Z has been worth .8 fWAR, .5 rWAR and -0.2 WARP (average 0.4). 

The value difference is only about a win, but the Cubs are paying $20.2 million for below replacement production. 

► January 6, 2012: Cubs trade Andrew Cashner with Kyung-Min Na to the Padres for Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates

Contract:  All the players were auto-renewal (league minimum)

At the time: How could you not love turning a relief pitcher into a 22 year old 1st basemen? I don't even care if he had half the potential that Rizzo had, you'd have to love it.

Early Analysis:  The Cubs traded a former top prospect in Andrew Cashner for Anthony Rizzo. The two other players involved were just there for the fun of it. We'll talk about them, but not much. I don't think this needs much analysis. This was an obvious win for the Cubs at the time of the trade. I'm shocked that 1) Josh Byrnes would even consider such a trade and 2) that the Padres owner would even allow it. If you get a chance to trade a highly touted pitching prospect for a highly touted position player you make that trade almost every time. You better than have an explanation why you would or wouldn't make such a trade and preferring Yonder Allonso and Andrew Cashner over Rizzo ain't one of them. 

Performance: Cashner has, like always, had some injury issues. He was moved back to the rotation, which helps lessen the damage of this trade if Cashner could ever stay healthy. That's unlikely. All Rizzo has done was tear up AAA .304/.346/.528 (.369, 128). He's been worth .9 fWAR, .9 rWAR and .8 WARP in less than 150 plate appearances. He's probably not this good, but for a guy who is 22 and who will only get better he's awfully damn valuable. 

Zach Cates is 22 and has split the season between High A and Low A. He's been terrible. Kyung-Min Na has been equally terrible.

► January 10, 2012: Cubs sign Paul Maholm

Contract:  1 year, $4.75 million with a club option for $6.5 million or a $0.5 million buyout (minimum earned salary would be $5.25 million)

At the time: Based on the available projections Maholm's average projected WAR was a little over 1. This gave him a value of about $6.5 million for one year. 

Early Analysis:  Maholm was quietly putting together a solid career in Pittsburgh. This was a good signing at the time and the projections prior to the season that I listed above underestimated his talent. Berselius ran them, as he did for other pitchers, and he came up with 2.3 WAR. What's not to like about signing a guy to produce a win when you can reasonably expect more than 2? 

Performance: As Berselius has been saying throughout the season, Paul Maholm did Paul Maholm things. In 120.1 innings he didn't walk many (2.5 per 9), strikeout a lot (6 per 9), had a 3.74 ERA and 4.13 FIP. His fWAR was 1.5, rWAR was 1.4 and for some unknown reason BPro's WARP was 0.0. PECOTA also projected only .6 WARP so if you went strictly on that projection and their value metric it didn't work out so well. 

Then again, the Cubs acquired one of the best pitching prospects entering the season for Maholm so yes, it worked out wonderfully. Although Arodys Vizcaino is recovering from Tommy John surgery, there's every reason to think he can bounce back and return to being the dominant pitcher he was. The question remains whether he can do that as a starter or as a reliever at the big league level. Either way, the Cubs ended up getting tremendous value for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. That trade alone more than justifies both contracts.

► January 13, 2012: Cubs sign Kerry Wood

Contract:  1 year, $3 million with a club option and no buyout

At the time: I wasn't as excited about this as a lot of Cubs fans were. I didn't think Kerry Wood deserved much of anything from the Cubs. I just didn't think he was good enough for the $4 million he wanted. 

Early Analysis:  What I just said can be put here too. It was only $3 million so it's not a big deal, but I'd have passed.

Performance: Wood retired in May after not pitching well early on. Presumably he didn't collect any additional paychecks so this ended up being for nothing. Cubs lost a little bit, but who really cares? 


► February 2, 2012: Cubs sign Gerardo Concepcion

Contract:  While the deal wasn't official until March 11, we learned in early February the Cubs and Concepcion had agreed a 5-year contract paying him $6 million. He was also added to the 40-man roster and as a result immediately began using his available option years.

At the time: This was a 20 year old who had struckout under 5 and walked just under 4 in his one year in Cuba (age 18). Giving this guy a contract worth millions was mind boggling and it was even more bizarre he'd be put on the 40-man roster.

Early Analysis:  Everything about this signing was based on projection. The scouts loved him. The numbers weren't fantastic, but we only had a small sample. It was a ton of money and a huge commitment that, in my opinion, was destined to fail from the start. 

Performance: I'm not sure what's worse about his performance. Is it the 70 hits allowed 52.1 innings in Low A? Is it the 30 walks (5.2 per 9, 12%)? The 28 strikeouts (4.8 per 9, 11.2%)? The 4 balks? Seriously, it's gotta be the balks. How can you balk 4 times in Low A? Among qualified pitchers (apparently somewhere around 70 innings) there is only 1 pitcher who has balked more than 4 times (David Goforth, 7). He's done so in more than twice the innings. If it's not all of that, what about the 6 home runs? This guy is fucking terrible. He makes Hayden Simpson look like Cy Young. What a shit contract at the time and it's looking even dumber now. One scout from another team who recently saw him said the Cubs keep trying to say it's the mechanics, but if you were at a junior college game and saw this guy pitch you'd leave. Even Hayden Simpson kept people in their seats at D2 games.

► February 21, 2012: Cubs trade Chris Carpenter and Aaron Kurcz to the Boston Red Sox for Theo Epstein 

Contract:  Carpenter and Kurcz were auto-renewal player

At the time: The Cubs acquired one of the best GM's in the game and gave up only a relief pitcher. There are arguments that the Cubs shouldn't have even been willing to give anyone up, but losing an injury prone relief pitcher for Theo is no big deal. The Cubs hired Theo in October so he'd been on the job 4 months by this time anyway. 

Early Analysis:  see above

Performance: Carpenter has been injured, but Kurcz has been damn good at the age of 21 at AA. He turns 22 tomorrow and so far this year in AA he's struckout 12.9 batters per 9 though he has walked 4.8 per 9. He's struckout 32.1% of the batters faced and walked 12.1% of them. That's an excellent K-BB%. He's thrown 50.1 innings and has an ERA of 3.04 and an FIP of 3.10. 

If you could sum Year One up in any way, I would probably go with this: throw crap at the wall and hope some of it sticks. While the Cubs did acquire a fantastic prospect in Anthony Rizzo, most of what they did this past offseason was rearranging the deck chairs. Along with the great trade for Rizzo, the Cubs sure acted dumb when they acquired Concepcion for about $6 million more than he was worth. Overall, you've got to be pleased with how the offseason turned out. Those expecting every transaction to turn to gold have quickly learned that isn't happening, but most of us already knew that.