The Last Puzzle Piece(s?)

One of John’s metaphors has been in my head a lot recently. He frequently stated that the optimal roster building strategy was no like assembling a jigsaw puzzle as he did in this piece, this one, another one, and this last one as well. John, like Ben Wyatt, preferred to play Settlers of Catan. The metaphor was so apt because it reflected the multi layered and leveled thinking of this front office that allowed it build the current juggernaut.

 

The focus in the game is on stockpiling and managing resources, and it reflected exactly what the Cubs front office needed to do in its first five years at the helm. Any baseball team is looking to collect enough wins to be the last team standing in early November. A baseball organization has two primary resources, players and cash. (as an aside referring to players as resources or assets always make me think of Seinfeld “we are talking about people, right?”) Since this is Highlander in that there can be only one it means teams dedicate different levels of these resources to winning right now versus winning later. No team gives up completely on winning in either timeframe, but the degree to which those resources are allocated does varying dramatically from team to team.   

 

There is a third and often unspoken resource baseball organizations have and that is roster spots. 40 man roster spot considerations come up often, but the Cubs have precious few 25 man roster spots available for 2018 (and really 2019 as well). This is why the Cubs roster building this offseason has become solving a jigsaw puzzle more so than any other previous off-season. Brian Duensing is a solid if not spectacular veteran reliever. His presence gives the Cubs tremendous roster flexibility. He potentially frees up Mike Montgomery to take the fifth starter spot (the least desirable outcome of this off-season) or he provides another left handed reliever to hedge against Justin Wilson being permanently broken (an unlikely but possible outcome). It also means that the Cubs have at most four available 25 man roster spots available.

 

The Cubs seemed almost assured to carry 13 pitchers for most of the season. The exploding size of bullpens is a trend that Joe Maddon led Cubs teams have certainly conformed with. The Cubs have 11 pitchers that are virtually guaranteed a roster spot. The Cubs also have an additional two pitchers that threw for the 2017 Cubs who are out of options and cannot be sent down without being exposed to waivers first in Eddie Butler and Justin Grimm. The presence of either is not and has not prevented the Cubs from pursuing Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb or Jake Arrieta. It also means that the Cubs likely have two scenarios emerging for the 2018 pitching staff. The first is the least desirable outcome with this front office being willing to meet the historical going rate for starting pitchers of the caliber of Darvish, Arrieta or Cobb:

 

Starters Relievers
Kyle Hendricks Brandon Morrow
Jon Lester Steve Cishek
Jose Quintana Pedro Strop
Tyler Chatwood Carl Edwards
Mike Montgomery Justin Grimm (placeholder)
Eddie Butler (placeholder)
Justin Wilson
Brian Duensing

 

It is conceivable in the no starter scenario, that the Cubs choose to invest their dollars into another reliever with attractive targets in Greg Holland and Tony Watson still available. The other scenario is the Cubs do sign one of the starters (trade is a possibility but seems much more remote than the Cubs using their most abundant resource).

 

Starters Relievers
Kyle Hendricks Brandon Morrow
Jon Lester Steve Cishek
Jose Quintana Pedro Strop
Free Agent Starter Carl Edwards
Tyler Chatwood Justin Grimm (placeholder)
Mike Montgomery
Justin Wilson
Brian Duensing

 

This has to be the preferred option, but it also highlights that the Cubs at most have the option of adding two more pitchers. The Cubs seem likely to avoid using both of those roster spots because there are a plethora of options to fill out the bottom of the pitching staff. Justin Grimm and Eddie Butler are battling for their spots on the roster at this moment, and that speaks nothing to the emergence of Dillon Maples. There is also the variety of depth options that have emerged or were signed this off-season that could start in the upper minors. And then there is Drew Smyly.

 

Smyly was a nice low risk, stash for the Cubs, but his deal is guaranteed for 2 years. Any impact arm is going to command at least a 2 year commitment, if not longer. The Cubs likely won’t have to solve this issue this year. Smyly’s return seems to be at best in August, and it wouldn’t take much for the Cubs to delay his return until after rosters expand in September. The looming issue would be heading into 2019 with 14 pitchers guaranteed a roster spot. Baseball often has a cruel way of solving those dilemmas but it is something the front office is no doubt mindful.

 

The Cubs position players are at least equally set. The Cubs should feel much more confident in starting the season with the current 12 position players slotted for the opening day roster. They also have the flexibility to option several players down, but really only two are in legitimate danger of losing their spot. The Cubs have the choice of pursuing a veteran backup catcher or going with Victor Caratini. Tommy La Stella has his now traditionally tenuous grasp on that 25th man roster spot. The group looks like this.

 

Catchers Infielders Outfielders
Willson Contreras Anthony Rizzo Jason Heyward
Victor Caratini Javier Baez Albert Almora
Addison Russell Kyle Schwarber
Kris Bryant
Ian Happ
Ben Zobrist
Tommy La Stella

 

The Cubs have a binary decision on a veteran backup. Caratini offers some flexibility to play corner infield spots, but you’d be hard pressed to argue that Caratini would be more valuable than La Stella. So the Cubs have the ability to really add 4 total players. They will probably add less since there is just $32 million under the competitive balance tax threshold. One larger signing or two smaller ones seems like the safer bet.

 

The front office could make a bold trade that would certainly involve some of these players currently penciled for roster spots, but cash remains the most available resource for the front office to finish this puzzle. It should also be noted that there is no reasonable evidence to suggest that the Cubs have to stay under the luxury tax threshold. The Cubs have exceeded the threshold once before with no ill effects on the health of the organization. Another deep playoff run and the free $50 million every franchise is getting from the sale of BAMTech means that the Cubs certainly have the ability to exceed the threshold. There can be some debate about whether it is a wise strategy or not, but it is certainly going to be by the choice of either Theo Epstein or Tom Ricketts to stay below that number.

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  • Not a big deal but why is Almora in black font?

  • In reply to stix:

    It's a secret.

    (Weird conversion from copying over from Google Docs, Fangraphs linkify and WordPress I am guess)

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Ah I see it now. I am guessing it is because I didn't include Jr. with Albert Almora and Carl Edwards that it didn't link those guys.

  • Is it better to sign a high price FA and give up a draft pick and
    international money or trade Russell and Happ OR Aloma for
    a very young top AAA pitcher and maybe more

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Signing Darvish does not cost them a draft pick. Also you don't trade a young middle infielder, who's already made the All-Star team and you keep Almora simply because both Zobrist and Heyward could be traded next year.

  • In reply to willycat:

    It would be better to trade for an impact cost controlled starter

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Why would the Cubs want to trade for a AAA pitcher? Sounds like a lot to give up Russell and Happ OR Aloma for somebody to pitch in Iowa.

  • Always depends on the prices involved, but would you trade Addison Russell for a secound round pick and $500K in international bonus pool money? The penalties for exceeding the tax threshold are not nothing, but I think we do sometimes get a little too concerned at the penalties on a team that should have the foot firmly on the gas pedal.

  • Thinking Darvish is not the primary, but not out of the realm of possibilities, less cost, but either Holland short term, one year, plus option or Cobb. But thinking if they land one of those two's it leads to Aliva, two years or so. This buttons up so much. It allows for flexibility with Montgomery, plus Baez/Russell/Happ/Almora for mid season needs. This team is on the cusp of possessing the best in season club. Post season will be determined in the mid season trading.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    oh finally a baseball post to discuss, oh that feels better.

  • fb_avatar

    I need baseball talk. This bullpen is shaping up to be a very good one. The signing of Duensing is a good one because that makes it so flexible. As said before, Montgomery could now start and I feel that if is planning to be the 5th starter from the beginning he can concentrate on that, and if the FO signs one of the big 3 that just makes it a better staff. We don't have that long before pitchers and catchers report. I just have the feeling that we're not done, but if we are, then I am very confident about this team.

  • To me the need and the obvious fit at this point is Darvish and, yes I’m getting pretty frustrated that it isn’t getting done. Darvish doesn’t mean as much to the other teams in the hunt as he does to the Cubs so I’m failing to understand why they are continuing to play this game of chicken. I haven’t lost faith in our FO, not exactly, but without adding Darvish I think they’re putting the Division in play and that’s unfortunate. As we’ve been saying for two months though, let’s see how it all plays out.

  • In reply to TC154:

    We are not the only ones playing chicken. It seems every team is reluctant to go beyond 4 yrs for a starter, especially considering Darvish and Cobb have already had TJS and the way Jake throws across his body is along term arm problem waiting to happen. Id be surrpised if anyone not named Harper or Machado gets anything beyond 5 yrs anymore.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I get that other teams are playing the same game but of the teams in on Darvish, supposedly the Cubs, Yankees and Twins, only the Cubs have what I would call a desperate need. The Yankees have a farm system that could get them a starter at the deadline, the Twins aren't going to compete for the Central Division title with or without Darvish so they're need is to make them the strongest WC team but the Cubs are only three deep in the rotation (you have to call Chatwood and Montgomery "ifs") and Jon Lester appeared to age considerably in 2017. I think there looks to be considerable upside potential in the offense with exactly one player (Contreras) having a career year in 2017 but pitching is key. Again I trust these guys but it's getting late and I'm nervous. I really think the NL is prime for winning this year with Washington being the only team that truly scares me.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Every pitcher has "ifs". Darvish and Jake have their warts too. I think Chatwood is going to be pretty solid and I think the FO thinks so too other wise they would not have given him a 3/38 contract. Out side of Coors over the last two years, he tied for the 2nd lowest ERA in the NL. Does not sound to iffy to me. I think the Cubs have 4 pretty solid starters in the rotation and certainly do not have a desperate need. Montgomery if given the chance to concentrate on being in the rotation and not being yanked back and forth between the pen and rotation, could provide better results. That being said I realize the FO is trying to get another SP. I trust them to take the appropriate risks to make the Cubs the best. To me it is not late and I am not worried. Even if we don't get one of Cobb/Jake/Darvish I think we win the division.

  • In reply to John57:

    The ERA outside of Coors was good but the FIP, which to me is the more important number, was 4.79 not much better than his 5.11 FIP at home and his BB/9 away from home was 4.66 almost identical to his home 4.73. He's got a nice curve that he started throwing more last year and his spin rate is a plus but he can't be looked at as more than a #5 starter and even then he's only a slight upgrade from Lackey. If he's a #4 with Montgomery or Tseng at #5 I'm very, very concerned.

  • In reply to TC154:

    He is replacing Lackey, no? He is not being counted on other than to accept the #4 spot. If anything, he repeats Lackey’s performance and we saved $5MM annually. Good move for a 92 win team who underperformed and should have been closer to 100 wins.

    Monty bitched about wanting to start. Theo has called his bluff. IMHO, he gets 10-12 starts and then it will be re-evaluated. If he fails, the Cubs make a trade and it will be for a TOR type which then slots everyone back.

    I do disagree with you regarding the season if they go with what they already have. The Cubs will win the division pretty easily. The upgrades are for post-season baseball and increasing the percentages to win it all. I do understand the angst with staying pay, but the Cubs are very good already and i think Theo will let things play out before signing a handcuffing deal.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I would probably pick St. Louis to win the Division if I were to pick today but I do see the argument for the Cubs as well. I think it's too close for for comfort right now, I think adding Darvish means they win the division by 3-4 games. I get the idea of adding at the deadline but we don't have the prospects for that and trading MLB roster players in season is problematic as Oakland proved by trading Cespedes for Jon Lester in 2014. Look, I have great hope for the hitting and I think Chatwood is fine as a 5 but I'm hearing too many people say that Montgomery, Tseng or Butler is fine as a BOR with Chatwood at 4 and I think 2018 is a prime opportunity to get back to the big dance I and I don't want to see it wasted. That's all.

  • In reply to TC154:

    TC......normally I always agree with your opinions but I gotta chalk this one up to you having a bad day........

    The Cardinals? As they are now? Against what the Cubs have now?

    There was a nine game difference between the two and that was also because the Cubs were sleep walking the schedule until the 4th of July......

    Look for the Cubs to exceed 92 wins.......the Cardinals would and will have a hard time reaching 90.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Wickdipper, if you remember back to last year I thought something was “off” with that team from minute one. It wasn’t necessarily talent but the mix was wrong. As bad a manager as Matheny is when was the last time you can remember the Cardinals being like that two years in a row? They added Ozuna and they’re loaded with young pitching depth. While I wouldn’t do it if it were me I’m guessing Reyes ends up their closer which isn’t great for his future could be the spark they need in 2018. That said if they look as lost as they did last year y’all could be right. As is I think the Cubs look like a 89-90 win team and I think St. Louis is right there. Once again I hope I’m wrong. Add a TOR and I think our guys are a 93-95 win team which should be good for second in the NL to Washington. The NL is there for the taking this year with the Dodgers looking to me to be vulnerable for maybe the last time in awhile. I just don’t want to see the opportunity wasted.

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    In reply to John57:

    Just for fun I took a look at Montgomery. His splits look really similar as a starter and reliever with the exception of HR/IP and his ERA. I thought that was odd. So I looked at his game log and I am suspicious that 2 starts against MIL killed his SP stat line. (4IP, 11R--not pretty). So I simply removed starts against MIL from the pool. Obviously any stat that removes bad performances somewhat arbitrarily is suspect, but his performance as a starter wasn't that bad (was pretty darn good actually if a little light on innings pitched): .218/.274/.308 slash line given up is really good and a wOBA of .257 and an ERA of 2.63 and only 44H and 13BB give up in 54+ IP.

    Even if the Cubs sign another good starting pitcher and Montgomery is in the bullpen I think we need to expect him to start 5-10 games. Maddon likes to have a 6 man rotation during the long, hot summer months. I get where you're coming from, TC154, but having Montgomery start periodically wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Conceivably Trout might make the Harper/Machado 5+ grouping (;-).

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    There is a report of a 5 year offer fir Darvish

  • In reply to TC154:

    Do you have a figure in mind, or are you saying that they should sign Darvish regardless of what it costs?

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I’d give him 5/$140 mil and call it done. If you have to go 6 you have to go 6. I think the Cubs at this point have no other choice. You have no idea how much I hope I’m wrong.

  • In reply to TC154:

    There is a really interesting article by Buster Olney today on Epstein, Cashman, and Friedman. It calls them “efficient” and risk adverse. I’m guessing the Cubs will be unwillingly to go past four years, and I’m happy Theo is there!

  • Would the Cubs ever consider a contract for either Darvish or Arrieta that would be in the same mold that Sherman wanted the Yankees to use for Darvish? Just a thought... 6 yrs at 120 mill with the contract to break down like this -
    Yr 1 30 mill
    Yr 2 30 mill
    Yr 3 20 mill
    Yr 4 20 mill (opt out clause)
    Yr 5 10 mill
    Yr 6 10 mill

    The AAV would be 20 mill and the player has the option to leave after 4 yrs or renegotiate. I'm sure there's plenty I don't know about and how this all works but maybe a front loaded contract gets one of the studs without going over the salary cap (sorry...I mean the luxury tax)

    Thoughts?

  • In reply to BobMiller146:

    I wouldnt give a 6 yr contract to any SP beyond the age of 30. 4 yrs max. The Marlins are having a fire sale because of Stantons contract. Right now theres maybe 4-5 teams that can even remotely think of signing any of these SP for even 5 yrs w/o going beyond the luxury tax threshold. Look at JD Martinez, his numbers comp with almost anyone in baseball, hes a good fit with the Bosox, yet they wont sign him until he drops his demands for a 6/7 yr contract.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Arrieta was the guy asking for 6 plus years but don' remember Darvish asking for more than 5. Think the Cubs would go for 4 years plus a option year for Darvish. Guess Cobb is their fallback guy.

  • In reply to BobMiller146:

    I like the idea. I like it even better if the Cubs have an option and especially if there are some ties to performance. Players (and agents) want guaranteed contracts while teams want guaranteed performance. Incentives put some of the burden on the player.

  • In reply to BobMiller146:

    Thoughts are reality and more strategic. Like that great quote in the movie "Moneyball";
    "Okay. People who run ball clubs,
    they think in terms of buying players.
    Your goal shouldn't be
    to buy players. Your goal
    should be to buy wins.
    And in order to buy wins,
    you need to buy runs."

    So let us replace Davish with the variable WAR win ($6.94m per WAR win) and then his WAR will diminish at a rate relative to his benchmark, in three years most likely 25% or a cost approaching ($9m per WAR win) because of his age that is 31 now.

    Cobb who I think was the target had a cost of ($5.6m per WAR win) a year younger probably falls to $8.3m in the third year) so Cobb is attractive because he is less costly in WAR.

    Arrieta is already eclipsing $9m per WAR with a fast falling WAR trajectory (his trend is please don't touch and please sign with the Cardinals, Cubs know this). He could fall to $25m per WAR win by the end of his contract.

    So the other track is the bullpen. Holland who is rumored to be interested in seeking a short term or bridge deal, let us say $15m per one year plus option, or $8.5m per WAR win.

    This is how you have to look at things, not buying players.

  • My sense with respect to another starter is that Theo believes he has won the toss with Chatwood and elected to defer. Boras argues that teams need to buy to compete with the Astros, yet we wouldn't face them until at least game #170 and can advance with Lester/Hendricks/Quintana/Chatwood/TBA-- UNLESS Cards (or Brewers) buy one of Yujakewood. AL has HOU/NY/BOS/CLEV as locks and LAA/MIN/TOR? as 5th wild card. NL has LAD/WAS/CUBS with AZ/COL/STL/MIL?/SF? playing for wild card slots. Not a lot of teams that need an ace to make the playoffs. So unless the division title is in jeopardy due to a divisional signing he can keep his powder dry. The +/- $20M for a better starter than the above four frees money for bench upgrade and mid-season injury replacement. Bench as of now is Zobrist, Almora/Happ (assuming platoon), Catcher #2, and La Stella. 3AM is your 4th best 2B and 3rd best 3B, so never a defensive replacement. Lucroy for 2/$20-24 is doable, as are a slew of other options better than Caratini or La Stella for the 24th and 25th spots. With three starter options and only two adverse signing outcomes, Theo can wait to see where parts of Yujakewood land before making his next move. There is a bit of 3D chess in the puzzle.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    And possibly why three things.

    Holland (if he see's his timing mistake of not taking the option or wanting out of the drunken launching pad known as the ROX at Coors), that a $15m this year plus option matching Davis's AAV as a bridge contract is preparing for the playoffs. I think holding money in reserve, right now they have an estimated $32-30m, sign Holland and his WAR 1.7-2.0 from the pen that would be the best in the NL, sign a good back up catcher (Avila great! and there still is Lucroy who is not getting much attention though he might be just too expensive and not want to platoon 1 of 3 games).

    Let us say Cubs spend $20m AAV on Holland and Aliva combined 3.6 WAR and go with Montgomery in the first half and still holding on to the NLCS Division lead with $10m in reserves. Who might be available for the 5th starter replacement in a mid season trade?

    SFG!! They are about to go over the cap at the 50% and Bum has a $12m option for next, let us say he is good, not great and SFG is deep in the NLW bottom. There is one arm for the playoffs with a projected WAR the same for Darvish

    Then there is Samardzija who had a 3.8 WAR last year at $18m, and is signed to '20.

    TEX! Cole Hamels has a $20 option he has a projected 2.3 WAR about the same as Arrieta. He would cost less in players.

    MINN: If Twins fall or get injuries there is Santana, $14m next and '20 but would cost players.

    There are options and timing is better.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    MadBum would be a dream but I’m not sure the Cubs have what it takes to pry him for 1.5 years. He is a true ace with three rings.

    Cueto may be more accessible though.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    You say Yujakewood, Who is wood?

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Meant Yujakecobb. I was typing about Chatwood, and accidentally conflated Alex Cobb and Alex Wood. My bad, sorry. Wish Alex Wood was available.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    Oh, ok. I was wondering if I was missing something because Swarf post below also listed Wood.

  • I'm find it difficult to think back to a 5/6+yr 100m contract that was good investment. The idea that 2/3/400m would be is absurd. Organizations can't give all their money to one or two players. Even the Yankees and Dodgers have figured that out. In the final analysis it's not monopoly.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    What about Lester? Don't win a WS without him

  • The Cubs have 5 good starters with Chatwood and Montgomery, especially if Montgomery is groomed to start from spring training. What they lack is a proven A+ closer like they have had the last two seasons. Houston proved that you can win a World Series without one, but having a Janssen or Davis or Chapman is a great safety net.

    I doubt Grimm will be with the team this season or Butler. Dillon Ma-les will have a role most likely. My approach would be to add Holland, Watson, or Matt Albers to make an even more robust bullpen and DL guys throughout the season to be able to maintain the right number of guys. As the season plays out you pick up the best available starter or reliever.

    This strategy also depends on having at least one viable replacement starter in AAA for the first three months of the season. Tseng, or maybe Alzolay are possibilities but I think it will be an acquisition.

    I really want to see what Montgomery can do as a starter with a new pitching coach. Of course if Lance Lynn would take a 2 or 3 year deal like Chatwood did that would change my thinking. I definitely do not want a Heywardesque contract for Arietta, Darvish or Wood.

  • In reply to Swarf:

    I think now it is pretty clear that from April thru to July, Montgomery and Chatwood are competing to stay in the rotation unless one of the minor league arms really blossoms. Montgomery will really have to grow mentally. He has the stuff to start and go 6 innings and possibly the special asst pitching coach will find out why?

    But Albers has signed with Japan. Yet your Watson thought is an interesting point where he was making $5m last year and is a FA. He will cost less than Holland but only had a 0.1 WAR last year, though I like Holland better for the push to the WS.

    To me the "good ground" is that the Cubs hold back $10-12m and pounce on an ace like starter next July, SFG looks obvious.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    I agree that if the SFG get off to a poor start they will trade. But I actually like the moves they’ve made. McCutchen, Panik, Posey, Longoria, Belt, Pence, Crawford, CF is not a terrible lineup. If Cueto and Melancon have bounce-back seasons, I could see them in the Wild Card hunt. And if so, they will look to add at the deadline and go over the tax.

  • Earlier this month MLB TV reported that the Cubs offered Cobb a 3-year, $42m contract. My guess is that he eventually signs for something close. And if not, I don’t see the Cubs paying more for Arrieta or Darvish. As Michael pointed out the other day, the Cubs have pitching prospects percolating up, and they have pieces to deal mid-season. Jay Bruce “settling” for three years, $13m per year, should send Cobb a message on the state of this market.

  • What is status of Alec Mills? Wondering if he'll compete for a spot. When may Smyly be ready this season, after all star break?
    Any other arms in minors that may make a splash this year?

  • In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    Smyly if we are fortunate will see the mound late late August or a September call up.

    He is for 2019.

  • In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    Mills, Butler,Zas,Underwood,Tseng and Montgomery are all going to try to impress and get in the rotation. That is what ball players try to do. Later in the year Hatch and Alzolay might want to get called up too.

  • In reply to John57:

    Is Mills healthy and ready?

  • I have seen nothing about Matt Albers signing with a Japanese team. He was 7-2 last year with 0.85 Whip. Does somebody have a strong bias against old fat relief pitcher with awesome stuff who do nothing but get outs and make you win. Think Fernando Rodney. He would be a cheap acquisition after holding Washington’s bullpen together last year.

  • I love this site but hate the pop up video box that shows up. Clicking the x won't make it go away. Can you fix that please? Thanks.

  • In reply to Cubby blue:

    I've been annoyed by the that video since it came out. Seems like it's been better lately, but it would be great if there was a way to turn it off.

  • I wrote Wood, meant Cobb.

    Sign Albers, .085 whip, 1.23 ERA. 2.3 WAR. Cheap, Good and Fat.
    Can’t beat it.

  • I like the idea of a good backup catcher. Seems like good insurance for the outfield if we can swing contreras out there. Too bad butler and Grimm are out of options. It would be nice to sign 1 more pitcher and stash one of those guys at AAA.

  • In reply to kb60187:

    And Bryant can play outfield also with Baez at third when Lester or Quintana start and teams stack the lineup with righties. Ironically, Willson was playing third when I saw Schwarber catching in TN.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    I've seen Contreras extensively at third. While you can "get away" with him at third for a game or so, you want Contreras behind the plate or at first base for a "rest".

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    In reply to Tom U:

    I look at Contreras at 3B somewhat like I look at Happ at 3B. He can stand there and make the basic plays. But I am not looking at him being a starter there. But even giving Maddon the option of putting him there with late game switches can be an asset.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I watched Contreras play third a weekend series in AA(Schwarber was catching) and he looked like Santo in the corner those games. Charging slow hits, driving stops and rifle arm, and pick and throw everything hit to him. Short sample I guess.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think Contreras was a 3B before he switched to catcher. Of course my memory is not what it used to be.

  • More thoughts regarding looking at WAR and FA acquisitions are outs, and outs in high leverage situations. What starting pitching gives you are outs in the first two stages of the game, more innings and more outs for the money. But the bullpen provides you outs in the last stages of the game when leverage or better put deciding at bats and outs occur. Valuing that has increased as the game has involved towards more specialization in relation to game situations, which in turn is based on the stage of the game.

    Therefore as things shake out and reading Heyman's most recent article I think the signing of a pitcher is based on both value against the outs. If Holland than the Cubs will value outs from the 6th inning on into the last stages of the game and play to their bullpen. If they land the starter that will mean they will value getting outs by the starter in 6th and into the 7th inning. It swings on Montgomery. Think I will try to write an algorithm for this for my own understanding.

  • Are the big 4 starters (Jake, Darvish, Cobb, and Lynn) "negotiating" or are they just saying "no" to the offers they get?

    That is, when Cobb rejected our $42M / 3 year offer, did he come back with a counteroffer or state what it would take to sign him?

    Have any of the big 4 stated what it would take to get them, or are they all just getting teams to keep bidding up their offers?

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I don't think either side has said no to each other, it's just that they haven't said yes. Now that said, maybe Darvish has said no to some teams, but we aren't privy to that or which team... I've not read where they said no on either side of these other than the Otani negotiating period.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Cobb wanted 4 - 70

  • Admin help, please.

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    Have to agree with Wickdipper. I don't see any team finishing within 5 games of the Cubs any season soon.

  • In reply to Ray:

    Why I feel the Cubs easily win their division is because of this:

    We know Cincy and Pittsburgh wont compete....
    Milwaukee and St Louis are good but there is the 38 games they each play each other and the Cubs that is the factor.....

    The Cubs will win their season series against both those teams.....neither the Brewers or the Cardinals make up that difference against the rest of the league.....

    Cubs win, Holmes.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    is it ever easy to win a division?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    It used to be for the cards.

  • Anyone read the article aboutJ-Hey saying he’ll be MVP of the cubs in 2018? Wish he wouldn’t have put extra bullseye on himself.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Wish he'd quit grounding out to second base. I like his optimism!!!

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    No where was it? Got to like his confidence. Sounds like he is healthy again.

  • Interesting piece of comparable data fell out as I start looking deeper into the concepts of an exponential increase of value of outs based on both leverage (game tying/winning run in scoring position) in relation to the number of outs left in a game, for relievers.

    2015: Cubs composite end of season fWAR for relievers:5.1
    2016: Cubs composite end of season fWAR for relievers: 4.8
    2017: Cubs composite end of season fWAR for relievers: 5.1
    2018: Cubs composite 'projected end of season fWAR for relievers: 5.8

    This even when Streamer or Depth Charts use the low end of standard deviation modeling.

    What this also implies for Montgomery and Grimm is going to be one of the drama points in ST outside the usual unexpected/expected injury. This also lends itself ask is another reliever take this very good bullpen to the very best or is it redundant?

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    But, but if I adjust for Montgomery being in the bullpen only 1/3 of the time the projected WAR for 2018 for relievers comes back 4.9. Most notably is the reduction in WAR from the starters in '15 that topped at 19.2 and last year registered a 12. With Montgomery as a starter the Cubs project to a 13.5 WAR in 2018.

    Therefore...add Darvish (3.6) and the Cubs starters increase to a WAR of 17.1, definitely a top of the league staff. Their bullpen would rate at about 5.3 depending on Montgomery's role. Add Arrieta (2.7) and the WAR is 16.2 and Cobb (1.7) it is 15.2.

    Overall by the numbers and window, Darvish is the target.

    Cubs replace Grimm with Maples, use Montgomery effectively and they are the best pitching team in the NL.

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