2012 NL Central Champion Cubs, part 3

Wreckard took a look at how the 2007 Cubs improved compared to the 2006 team and what kind of improvements this current team would need to make for next year. In the first part of this series. we took a look at payroll and named several players the Cubs should keep if they plan to contend next season. The second part focused on Aramis Ramirez‘s club option and whether they should retain him, as well as taking a look at two in-house platoon candidates to replace him. We also listed the players by position that make sense to be a part of next year’s team if they were to try and contend. In this one we’re going to find out how good that team would be.

To start with, you need to understand that at this point there’s not as much information available to get accurate projections like we will have access to after the season. I’m using ZiPS rest of season projections for wOBA for hitters and FIP for pitchers. I’ve included my own playing time estimates and for Ryan Flaherty, I’ve estimated his projected wOBA vs right handers to be .310. It may in fact be higher, but that’s good enough for now. For defense, I’ve used what I think the player is worth so you may disagree, but it’s not going to make much difference overall. We’re trying to get a ballpark figure for how much the Cubs need to improve this offseason to contend next year. That’s all.

Hitter Pos PA wOBA WAR
Geovany Soto CA 550 .349 3.7
Darwin Barney 2B 550 .300 1.0
Starlin Castro SS 600 .329 2.3
Ryan Flaherty 3B 400 .310 0.8
Jeff Baker 3B 200 .350 1.2
Alfonso Soriano LF 550 .329 0.4
Marlon Byrd CF 550 .338 2.8

If you recall, we came up with 2.3 WAR for Ramirez next season. Flaherty and Baker combine for 2 WAR. The Cubs save $11 million or more by letting Ramirez walk and lose only .3 WAR. The numbers for Baker, for what it’s worth, are vs lefties, which is really all he should be facing anyway. Even if the two combined for just replacement level next year, they still save the $11 million while losing $11 million in value (2.3 WAR). As long as they’re above replacement level, which is likely, it makes sense to go with the platoon over Ramirez. We need a 1st baseman and a right fielder. Below are the pitchers.

Pitcher IP FIP WAR
Matt Garza 200 3.60 3.5
Carlos Zambrano 190 3.74 3.0
Ryan Dempster 200 3.56 3.6
Randy Wells 175 4.03 2.1
Carlos Marmol 75 2.91 2.4
Sean Marshall 75 2.82 1.9
Andrew Cashner 60 4.35 -0.1

If you’re wondering how Ryan Dempster could still be projected as highly as he is, it’s because his 5.00 ERA has been rather unlucky to say the least. His FIP is 3.70, but his xFIP is 3.37 and his SIERA is 3.44. After a BABIP over the last 3 years of roughly .295, it’s balloned to .331 this season. His LD% is actually the same as it was in 2008 when his BABIP was .280. He left about 73% of the runners on base the last 3 years, but only 67% this season. 

It’s actually quite remarkable that Dempster has been allowed to stick in the rotation. Only 10 qualified starting pitchers have an ERA worse than he does and in year’s past, Lou would have yanked such a pitcher from the rotation long ago. Mike Quade has, on occasion, been critical of Dempster, but he’s left him in the rotation. That’s a pleasant surprise based on the actions by this organization in the past.

This roster, plus league minimum guys to fill it out, as well as the rest of the 40-man, would make about $100 million. The Cubs current payroll is $135 million. This roster would be projected to win about 77 games (28.5 WAR plus 48.6 replacement level wins). We haven’t factored in age yet.

We could probably take about 2 wins away if we factor in age and I gave all the starters a ful season’s worth of playing time so let’s knock off another 2 for injuries/ineffectiveness. 73 wins. That’s where the Cubs are starting with the roster above. In the next part we’ll look at available players and how much they’d add to this roster.