Well that was fun! What seemed like another day with a lot of rumors and no real action took a sharp left at the dinner hour on Tuesday Night. It was the lightning round, and the Cubs were playing to win.
First came the news that Ben Zobrist wanted to discuss the final 2 teams had narrowed his decision down to with his wife before coming to a conclusion on where to play in 2016 and beyond. Apparently his wife feels the same way that he does about reuniting with Joe Maddon, because less than 2 hours after that news broke Ben Zobrist was a Cub.
With a 4 year deal worth 56 million dollars, Zobrist improves the top of the Cubs lineup immensely. It is likely he will play 2nd base primarily, however he can be moved around to multiple positions on the infield and both corner outfield spots. For his career, Zobrist has put up a stat line of .265/.355/.431 while posting a nearly 37 WARP. That is huge. His strikeout rate last year was just over 10% and his ability to make consistent contact is an attribute that was sorely missing in the Cubs Home-Run, walk, and strikeout heavy offense last season.
The contract seems to be more than a little less than what was being offered from other teams, though the exact numbers of what Zobrist passed on from the Mets has not been disclosed. There was some mixed reaction from Cubs nation over the moves that followed, and we’ll get to that. But looking strictly at Ben Zobrist, he is a match made in heaven for this Cubs roster.
The next move the Cubs made only minutes later was to trade polarizing shortstop/2nd baseman Starlin Castro to the Yankees in exchange for IF Brendan Ryan and P Adam Warren. Adam Warren adds something that Theo Epstein indicated the Cubs sorely lacked last year. Pitching depth. Depth is the operative word. In Theo’s postseason press conference he said:
“We want to continue to add starting pitching depth at the big league level.”
He also indicated that the Cubs were somewhat lucky last season. With injuries to former Cubs Pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada and P Jason Hammel last season, the Cubs had to play the waiver-wire, AAA callups, and small trade routes to be able to juggle those injuries. This offseason alone the Cubs have come to terms with Clayton Richard, as well as Trevor Cahill, and now this move brings in Adam Warren.
All three of those players could either take over the 5 spot in the Cubs rotation if the Cubs feel that making a trade that involves Jason Hammel or Kyle Hendricks improves the team, or they help make the Cubs bullpen one of the best in the National League. Either way, it was a great acquisition considering that Adam Warren is controllable through 2018.
Fans were mixed on losing Starlin Castro. I understand. Some fans have grown to like him, myself included. I have always been an advocate for Castro in that a lot of the criticism he received was a false-narrative. However, he certainly brought some of that on himself. I am big on removing emotion from my decisions, so let’s take a look at just the numbers.
The last 3 full seasons Castro has played he has combined to hit .267/.306/.386 good for 1.2 WARP per year. Castro’s supporters this offseason point to his contact rate, and it was certainly lower than other players on the roster. However, over the last 3 seasons his strikeout rate is over 17%.
Conversely, Ben Zobrist’s last 3 seasons look like this: .274/.363/.409 good for 4.2 WARP on average. Clearly, Zobrist is the superior player. For next season, Zobrist is projected to be worth 3.3 WARP while Castro is projected to be at 1.2 WARP. Any way you slice it, the Cubs theoretically added 2-3 Wins next season with this move.
So looking at the move from a non-emotional point-of-view, the Cubs added Ben Zobrist and his much needed skillset, Adam Warren for pitching depth, and Brendan Ryan to the bench and with the Yankees picking up all of Castro’s contract the Cubs only add just over 4 million to next seasons payroll with the moves. That is what you call asset-reallocation that is a vast improvement on the roster.
The other big move on the evening was the move of Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamondbacks. I am not going to dive too much into this other than to say the Diamondbacks overpaid tremendously for a pitcher who projects as a mid-rotation guy with his peripherals. For Cubs fans that were hoping to land Miller, be thankful. Apparently this player was asked to be included by the Braves in every trade proposal.
Okay guys! The Meetings are in full swing and the Cubs still have roster moves to make. The fun is only getting started. Here is a look at how Twitter reacted to the Cubs moves last night.
@cubbiekaryn welcomed Ben Zobrist to the northside
@joepaton likes the moves the Cubs have made, but is still waiting on a CF’er.
@Cubs_Fanpage is sad Castro is gone, but knows it was for the best.