Bourn again? Analysis on why the CF simply doesn't make sense for the Cubs -- even in the short term.

The more Michael Bourn lingers around the more tempting he seems to get.  The free agency dance is nearing an end and one of the most attractive free agents out there is inexplicably still available.  Should the Cubs make their move?

In his great “Anarchist Brunch” feature yesterday, Felz brings our attention to an excellent piece by DMick89 at OV Blog.  In it, DMick89 does a great job of breaking down Bourn’s projected value over the next 5 years and comparing it with possible compensation packages.  The conclusion is that Bourn could offer the Cubs good value over the life of the contract, particularly in the next 2-3 years.  While I agree with the analysis and that particular conclusion, I still do not believe that signing Bourn is a good idea — even in the short term.

Let me start off by saying that none of these moves are made in isolation.  It’s not simply a matter of adding Bourn’s projected value of 3.2 WAR to the Cubs bottom line.

The reason for this is that it dismisses the value of the players that are already on the roster.  If the Cubs sign Bourn, it is likely that two players — and as many as 3 players will lose value in the transaction.  Two of those players, likely Nate Schierholtz and Dave Sappelt, will move to the bench.  A third player, Brett Jackson, stands to lose value as well.  We’ll get back to that in detail later in the piece.

Now you may not think much of any of those players and given their history and/or uncertain futures, I’m not going to argue that.  It’s a legitimate concern.

But let’s stop thinking about them as whole players.  Let’s not think of them as 150 game/600 PA guys who you can etch into the lineup everyday.  That is not who they are at this point and nobody expects any of them to play that role for the Cubs in 2013.

The idea here is to maximize their value by playing to their strengths and limiting their exposure in situations where they are weaker.  What we’re talking about here is mixing and matching 4-5 guys and putting them in positions when and where they are most likely to have success.

I’m going to attempt to break this down, piece-by-piece at first.  I will use CAIRO, Bill James and ZiPS projections for this piece to try and create a composite.  I don’t have complete projection information at this stage but given the similarities between systems, it isn’t going to change the outcome significantly one way or the other.  I will also use UZR ratings, WAR, season and career splits in the analysis, so please bear with me until the end here.  When it’s done we can step back and look at the whole picture, and hopefully this will all make sense.

Let’s first take a quick look at the free agent in question…

Michael Bourn: CF

Bourn’s numbers will be the most straightforward simply because he’s the only one in this analysis who is a true everyday player.  We’ll keep it simple to start here.

  • Bourn is projected to have a 3.2 WAR per CAIRO (2.5 on offense)

  • Slash line of .275/343/.378 (CAIRO)

  • Slash line of .273/.344/.363  and .313 wOBA (Bill James)

  • On defense, Bourn has a superb career UZR/150 of 10.7 and CAIRO projects an additional 0.7 wins on his defense alone.

Now, let’s look at the current Cubs group. For the sake of this study, we’ll assume Alfonso Soriano is the everyday LF for now and he will not be part of the analysis. We will focus on the other 4 Cubs outfielders.  But here is where things get a little more complex.  The attempt here will be to maximize each of these players’ strengths and to mix and match them as much as is possible.  This is somewhat theoretical because strict 100% platoons don’t really happen, but we’ll consider any bleed over against offhand pitchers, injury fill-ins, or defense at other positions as bench play, so I won’t factor that into the projected overall numbers as starters.

I’m using recent and career splits as a guide here rather than projections because the projection systems are based on everyday numbers.  As I’ve said, I do no believe the Cubs intend to utilize them in that traditional way.

Nate Schierholtz – RF vs. RHP; splits lineup position with Scott Hairston

For Schierholtz, we’re going to use his numbers vs. RHP only and we will assume his primary role defensively will be to man RF.

  • Career vs. RHP: .266/.319/.413
  • .317 wOBA

Not exactly inspiring, but I don’t think this tells the whole story on Schierholtz.  The Cubs are big into ballpark factors as well and it’s important to consider that Schierholtz has struggled a great deal at the place where he’s played almost half of his MLB career: AT&T park.  Taking those numbers out, we get these career numbers vs. RHP.

  • .281/330/.443
  • .334 wOBA

Much better and likely something more along the lines of what the Cubs are expecting to see.  Then add that he is an underrated athlete who plays good defense with a strong arm.  The numbers support the scouting reports and suggest that Schierholtz  is an asset defensively…

  • Career UZR/150 in RF is 9.2.  That easily makes him a plus defender.  While he is not Bourn’s equal on defense and plays a less important position, you mitigate the raw amount of defensive value Bourn brings in if you have to move Schierholtz, the Cubs current best defensive OF’er, to the bench.

Scott Hairston: CF vs. LHP; splits lineup position with Nate Schierholtz

Hairston could also play RF but I’m using him at CF for this analysis because he has more of a track record there than Sappelt.  Despite plus career UZR/150s, I consider both players to be below average in CF, so it’s a wash there.  On the other hand, I consider Sappelt a plus defensively in RF, so we can add value if that’s where we play him on defense.  For lineup purposes, however, we will complement Hairston’s splits with those of Schierholtz.  Remember, this is going to involve a lot of moving parts, but it’s necessary for the purpose of maximizing as much value as possible.

2012 vs. LHP:

  • Slash line: .286/.317/.550
  • 386 wOBA

Career vs. LHP:

  • Slash line: .276/.325/.500
  • wOBA: .353 wOBA

While I’d love to think Hairston can repeat his 2012 performance vs. lefties.  We’re going to use his career numbers so as to utilize the larger sample size.  They’re also lower and we should expect some regression.

David DeJesus: CF vs. RHP; splits lineup position with Dave Sappelt

It’s tempting to want to call DeJesus an everyday player but his recent lines against LHP suggest otherwise (.149/.289/.149 in 2012).  He’s also not really a CF at his stage in his career but I was surprised to see that at least by UZR standards, he was equally effective at both positions last season, though both ratings were below average (-7.4 in CF/-7.2 in RF).  Between Hairston and DeJesus in CF, the Cubs will be below average defensively at a premium position.  This, in my opinion, is the strongest reason to get Bourn.  But as we’ll see, it’s not nearly enough to warrant signing him.

Because DeJesus is a different player at the latter stages of his career, I decided to use his 3 year trend instead of his career numbers.  His numbers vs. RHP have been remarkably consistent over that stretch.

2012 vs. RHP

  • .289/.365/.461
  • .358 wOBA

3 year trend vs. RHP

  • .294/.370/.453

Dave Sappelt: RF vs. LHP, splits lineup position with DeJesus

There is a lot less projection information available on Sappelt and much of what’s out there are projections based on a full season, which would include many PAs vs RHP.  I think Sappelt’s mediocre 2012 season  at AAA Iowa may skew the numbers down even further.  Here are those numbers, such as they are.

ZiPS Projection

  • .267/.316/.381
  • .289 wOBA

Cairo Projection

  • .273/.332/.398
  • .324 wOBA

Sappelt’s career numbers vs. LHP (very, very small sample size)

  • .345/.410/.545
  • .413 wOBA

Those numbers vs. lefties aren’t sustainable in all likelihood, so we’ll have to set our sights lower.  Yet I think they’ll be higher than their 2013 projections as long as he’s used almost exclusively vs. LHP.  No matter which numbers we use, they’ll be better than the numbers DeJesus has put up lately vs. LHP.  For our analysis, we’ll use the Cairo projections.

Panning back and looking at the big picture

So what I did was take the slash lines of each player and put 70% of the weight on the long side of the platoon (vs. RHP)and 30% of it on the short side of the platoon (vs. LHP). Defensively, I used them in combinations that gave the greatest overall value.  I then calculated those waited averages into the Simple WAR Calculator created by Wahoo’s on First.  With Michael Bourn, I simply used his Cairo WAR projection.

If the Cubs sign Michael Bourn

  • CF: Michael Bourn: 3.2 WAR
  • RF: Platoon of David DeJesus and Scott Hairston.  Weighed combined slash of .289/.357/.467, with generously average defense: 3.0 WAR

Total: 6.2 WAR

(Note: If we make that RF defense slightly below average, which is probably more accurate, the RF WAR drops to 2.5 and the CF/RF combined WAR drops to 5.7)

If the Cubs do not sign Michael Bourn

  • RF: Nate Shierholtz/Scott Hairston: Weighted combined slash line of .280/.329/.460, with Sappelt in RF defensively. I gave this slightly above average defense:  2.3 WAR
  • CF: David DeJesus/Dave Sappelt: Weighted combined slash line of .288/.359/.437, with Hairston in CF defensively. I gave this duo below average defense: 3.0 WAR

Total: 5.3 WAR

So, if the Cubs are able to maximize what they currently have on their roster, assuming career and current trends hold reasonably close as far as platoon splits, it’s possible that adding a 3.2 WAR player like Bourn, which looks good in isolation, would actually only result in a 0.9 WAR net gain.  Slightly less than 1 win for $13- $15M/yr.  And if typical regression occurs with Bourn throughout his contract, we  can expect his individual WAR to decrease by about 0.5 WAR per year (perhaps a little less if you buy into Tom Tango’s theory that speed players hold their value slightly longer).  So this probably isn’t going to get any better as the years go by.  But I digress.  This analysis is about 2013.

If that’s still not convincing….I’m not quite done yet.

The Brett Jackson Factor

Whatever you think of Brett Jackson and his future, we’re going to try and keep this objective by using his ZiPS projections.  We could really use any projection system for the purposes of this brief analysis, because this point is really about positional value.

  • Projected stat line per ZiPS: .230/.317/.403

In CF, that is worth about 2.3 WAR.  If you have to move him to LF because of Michael Bourn’s presence in CF, then the decreased positional value there subtracts significantly from his overall value.  The WAR calculator puts it at 1.3 when I change his defensive position to LF and keep everything else equal.

  • That’s approximately one less win because of the loss in positional value.

Yet another potential unintended consequence of adding Bourn to the current roster.

Oh, and did I mention that the Cubs will lose a draft pick in the 40s range?  That’s even more lost value that may or may not be fully made up by attempting to deal Bourn later.


I’ve been vehemently against signing Bourn from day one and I’ve stated various reasons why, though I have never taken it time to break it down into specific numbers and values.   There was always the question of the draft pick and getting saddled with a 5 year contract for a player who is in his 30s, but the recent Hairston signing has helped complete the picture for me.  It has allowed me to analyze this within the context of a full roster that appears designed to maximize value out of part-time players.

The production boost we can expect from Bourn in 2013 alone isn’t significant enough to warrant a large, multi-year contract from the Cubs.  This is even before taking things like monetary value and the long-term implications into consideration.  Signing Bourn is just not a good investment whether you are talking about the short, mid, or long-term.

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  • Wow, John, you really went above and beyond here with the analysis, good job and extra credit for your hard work and research here, there's no way you can put some analysis like this without dedication, thank you for this article.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Thanks Caps. It's been stuff that's been dancing around in my head for awhile but I haven't gotten it down in writing with specific numbers. Fels article (as well as the OV piece he mentioned) inspired me yesterday to finally get my thoughts down.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I keep saying you will be in a front office one day. Your analyze is just too good.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Thanks Kevin. I appreciate that. Any spot with the Cubs would be a dream job!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I honestly wonder how many people in the organization read this blog. I can't imagine they haven't heard of it, considering your and Tom's connections.

    If you would get a job with the Cubs, your analysis goes into the classified file. At first glance, the selfish part of me dreads that, since there is no better place to find Cubs analysis, and I would be very sad to see this go. That said, the big-picture part of me realizes that it would greatly help the team, so it would be for a good cause. (And the optimistic part of me would hope that they still let you post on some things!)

    Regardless, someone who can match analytical ability with an impartial mindset toward the issues facing the organization and evaluate its options and past decisions evenhandedly would be an asset to any front office. Add to that the ability to maintain optimism, patience, and a genuine love for their team -- that should make it a no-brainer.

    The Epstoyer regime has done a great job of not drinking the Kool-Aid of conventional big-market operations, but it's time for them to consider the scotch...

  • In reply to gocubsgo25:

    Wow. Thanks gocubsgo25! I know the FO knows of this blog from the people I've talked to and things I've heard. I'm hoping it's for good reasons :)

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Agree here. I have to think he's already on radars. I would miss the 'blog, though.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks Mike.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Just remember us little guys when you win your first ring. :)

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    Great piece of work here John!!! There are circumstances where adding Bourn would be in the rational self interests of a team, the Cubs are just not in those circumstances right now, when all things are considered. They should pass on Bourn, keep the draft pick and not block a younger, cheaper and long term potentially better player's path to the show.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Thank you Michael. I agree this isn't necessarily going to be the case all the time, but in this particular instance and the way the Cubs have constructed their roster, it seems to me they are going in a different direction. It's more Oakland As style than what we're used to seeing around here. If it were a different player or a different time, who knows? But I don't see this type of signing happening right now.

  • Nice job, John. All I ask when you get your front office job is that you give me a shot at play-by-play announcer. I'll send you my demo...

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Deal :)

  • Nicely broken down John.

    The 'deal breaker' for me (if I were making the call) would be the draft pick loss on a team attempting to do a rebuild from the ground up.

    If the Cubs were 1-2 years closer to actually being a contender - I still don't think we will have a team that can really contend until 2015,... although 2014 could surprize - that would change the weighting of the impact of adding a Bourne like player Vs. losing the draft pick and crowding out Jackson & others for a couple of years.

    You have to give Jackson a shot (IMO) to win or lose as an everyday CF (or LF) before you give up on him. If for no other reason than to increase his trade value when Almora and the others starting at AA or AAA this season come up in a couple of years.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Thanks. I barely mentioned the draft pick in this particular analysis because I was trying to focus on 2013 but I agree 100%. In fact, protecting that pick is the reason they chose the route I outlined above rather than trying to get value from one marquee FA. Maximizing talents from a combination of players can approach the production they'd get from making that one big signing -- but the key is avoiding the long term pitfalls. If this plan doesn't work, the Cubs can easily regroup and rebuild their outfield in 2014.

  • Well done young man. I agree with all that you bring to this issue of signing/not signing Bourn. There will be a day when our young studs are manning all these positions and I don't want the FO to get over-anxious about time. I'm about as impatient a person as there is, but we need to wait for the moment to sign that one or two guys that meet the criteria of both short and long-term value. That day will get here.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Thank you. I agree. That's not to say they shouldn't sign FAs if given the chance, but they have to make sense from both short and long term. Bourn doesn't fit that criteria for me.

  • Too bad there isn't a fantastic 3B who has lingered on the market until the week before spring training. There's a position where the club could use an upgrade.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    That would make things interesting. Get the feeling though the Cubs want to bring in a young guy at 3B. The veteran market was so thin this year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. I a lot of ways - the best 3B choice that the Cubs could make this year (given, a choice with significant risks) was to resign Stewart as a primary 3B option, and hold Valbuena as a back-up for Stewart IF Stewart still can't go.

    Keppinger wouldn't have been a horrible signing, but has limits & he isn't a true 3B. Wright wouldn't have been a practical add at the price even if you could have pried him away from the Mets. Youklis appears to be in decline and wouldn't have been a great choice either. The rest of those that would have been on the market are no better than Stewart/Valbuena and likely more expensive. Vitters may still get his act together too,...

    Short-term it was the best choice,... long-term,... it was also appears to be a good choice.

  • I have had this idea/theory and have not yet put it into words until now as I worry it may be too far fetched, but here it goes... Why can't the Cubs sign Bourn, lose the draft pick, eat some of the money and immediately trade him for a upper level prospect. For example, let's say the price for Bourn ends up at 4 years/50 million but still no one wants to give that kind of money plus lose a draft pick. Now I'm sure there are some teams that could use Bourn right now but are strapped financially. And of course we see teams all the time who backload deals. For arguments sake, I will use the Rangers. I'm not saying the Rangers are that team that needs help financially so insert whichever team might make sense with this scenario. Let say the Cubs sign Bourn to 4 years, 50 million (12 million/yr) They do this with the agreement already in place that they are trading Bourn to the Rangers for Mike Olt. In addition they have agreed to pick up $20 million in salary over the 1st 2 years. While you can insert the numbers however you feel is reasonable, my point here is the concept. I could see this as a deak benefiting all three parties. 1. Boras/Bourn gets the long term deal they are looking for. 2. A team like the Rangers get a player that can help them win right now on a team friendly deal with the majority of money deferred to the last 2 years of the deal. They are giving up a top prospect in Olt, but it is worth it to them as they are trying to win now and could be strapped financially for the next 2 years. 3. Finally the Cubs could benefit as they have shown a willingness to spend some money right now if that can translate into long term assets in the next few years. In addition, they would be giving up a draft pick that they value, but they are also netting a top 25 MLB ready prospect. Would you give up 20 million and a 2nd Round pick for a player like Mike Olt?

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    Texas could sign Bourn if they really wanted to at a much cheaper cost in terms of talent than Olt. If they wanted him, they'd have signed him. If they don't want to give up millions and their own draft pick now , what makes you think they'll want to give up Olt 5 months later?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    think about this too John. If this Miami PED clinic story has legs, one of the most prominent names mentioned was Nelson Cruz, the Strangers RF. If Cruz were to be implicated and suspended, then does that decrease the possibility that Texas would trade Olt?

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Hard to say, they may want Olt to replace Cruz, since Olt is a good athlete and can play a very good RF.

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    In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    Major League rules prohibit the trading of any recently signed FA until June 1. Sign and trades are prohibited by ML rules.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Texas was probably a bad example as I know they have money to spend. Was really trying to throw out the thought of signing and trading Bourn to a team that didn't have a budget for him. The Cubs pick up some of the money and get a better prospect(s) in return. Zonk answered my question as to why we couldn't do something like this as Bourn would need to be kept through June 1st.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    I have posted a similar idea in the past. And to a degree, I do think the cubs agree with the theory, "Sign free agents, create value, trade free agents for long term assets." If some of that value for the other team is a bit of a discount on the salary, no big deal, as long as the price we pay for prospects is no more than the player would be worth if obtained through other means (for example, an international free agent signing like Jorge Soler.) The problem for me, in this situation, comes from the amount of money that we are spending and the draft pick we are losing. Once we commit to a four year $50-$60 million deal, plus losing a high 2nd round draft pick, we have a lot of chips in the pot. We can't trade Bourn until June. We can't be sure he won't have a poor start, or perhaps never live up to his contract. We then have to further discount the price to try to recoup anything, not to mention how the deal could be perceived publicly if it goes poorly. Could it turn out well? Sure, but there certainly is risk involved.
    I think you have to want the player, be ok with the upside and downside of the deal, and have it make sense for your team to take the risk. Are there players for whom it would make sense to take this type of risk? Sure, but I don't think they are still on the market this year. The Cubs seem to have made a statement that they don't intend to sign Bourn, not just in words (I take Jed Hoyer's comments during the Cubs Convention to mean they are taking a pass), but also in the players they have added already.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    John, im not sure, but I believe you cant trade FAs for the first 3 months after you sign them?

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Yes, there is a time frame or date. I've hear June 1st and June 15th...would have to look it up to be sure. But you are correct, there is no sign and trade type situation as there is with the NBA. You sign them, you keep them... at least for awhile.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    If I remember right, free agent signees can not be traded until June 15. I doubt that Texas or many other teams would give much more in value than the Cubs 2nd round draft choice at that point.

  • Well....umm... I'm gonna go ahead and take credit for motivating John into writing this article. Yep. All me baby.

    I was interested in the Cubs signing Bourn mainly because the I thought that the price might come down to a point where it could be discussed. If you save 15 million on signing Bourn, does that make up for the 1 million you'd lose in draft picks? I what about 20 million. The OV peice kind of ran with it. And it obviously proved to be an interesting article because it got such a well researched, well composed retort.

    This article raises Arguello's PFAJ (proving Felzz is a Jackass) to a robust 7.44. But since he wrote it after I had written my article his PFAJ/150 drops a little...

    In conclusion, a great article by you Mr. Arguello. Now just guard against another case of #nerdflu.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Thanks Fels. I liked the OV article, enjoyed the analysis and agreed with the conclusion in principle and you're right Tthe only reason I really "responded" was because it was an interesting, well thought article. The same go for your thoughts on the subject in your piece yesterday, so no PFAJ :) In fact, I got emailed some nice compliments on your last piece.

  • John I love the Idea of maximizing positional value through platoons.But I feel like we would not be making the most of acquiring as many assets as possible. I feel like we should inquire about buying low on Bourn based purely on supply and demand. Supply is inelastic while demand is rapidly falling on Bourn. Offer him a short term deal where you won't have to give up a pick. It's a win-win. We buy low on Bourn, if he doesn't bite he isn't playing baseball this year. At the right price, I feel Bourn is an asset. You cannot have to many assets.

  • In reply to sdwyer11:

    How do you figure we wouldn't have to give up a pick? Atlanta made a qualifying offer to Bourn. It is my understanding that means whichever team that signs him will have to give up a draft pick.

  • In reply to sdwyer11:

    They'll have to give up a pick regardless of the length of the deal. But as stated above, it's much more than losing a pick. It's just not good value unless you think you can spin him off for a big time prospect. But if teams unwilling to give up a draft pick for him now, what makes anyone think they'll be willing to deal a top prospect once he has a big multi-year contract later?

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    Sorry John , i love the analysis, but what if the management is thinking or has lined up a trade for Soriano. Then if you have Bourne in the OF picture you have a CF anchor. What would the numbers be if you look at the platoon in RF and LF?
    I understand you lose a draft pick, but you've solidified the OF and got relatively younger. I have my doubts on Jackson and if you can get Bourne on a friendly contract or Jackson turns it around, you can dump Bourne.

  • In reply to John from Denmark:

    For that you have to think Bourn is actually a player who will make a significant net impact short term and someone you can build around long term. The whole point is that he doesn't, not when you look at the big picture. He's a complementary piece who plays great defense and average overall offense, both of which should go down over the next few years. Cairo projects him at 3.2 WAR, which is an above average regular but only because of his CF defense By next year it's 2.7, by 2015, the natural progression is that he's a 2.2 WAR player. A fringe starter making millons on a team that may have Jackson and/or Almora to do it cheaper and better. As I've said, you can replace most of that early value with what they already have.

    The potential value you lose by signing Bourn far outweighs Bourn's value, even in the short term. And as I've said, he'll have little value in the long term as his defense inevitably regresses and he settles in as a below average offensive player. You can get those type of players cheap, nobody is going to give the Cubs value for that down the road.

    There is a reason Bourn doesn't have a job right now and why his old team preferred to replace him with BJ Upton. There's a reason that every team that needed a CF this year (i.e. Reds, Nats, Phils,) went in a different direction. Let's not make Bourn into a better player than he really is. His only real asset is that he currently gives you great defense at a premium position.

  • Does the draft pick compensation go away after the June draft? I'm thinking his only chance to get that big deal is to sign on with a club after the draft. I'm thinking that this is the likeliest of all the scenarios at this point.

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    Sorry Dan, missed this one! Yes. Comp goes away after the draft. If Bourn is willing to miss a couple of months, he could sign without anything holding his value down.

  • Enough already about Michael Bourne. You've beaten a dead horse until there isn't a horse any more. There are two words that describe why Bourne hasn't been -- and probably won't be -- signed this year. DRAFT COMPENSATION!

    No club who needs to build their minor league system is going to give up their 1st or 2nd round (in the case of the Cubs) draft pick to get a marginal player at best. Furthermore, if the Cubs pick up a Bourne, even for 1-3 years, you are blocking the likes of Jackson who need the reps at the major league level.

  • In reply to JeffK:

    Wow dude... Who pissed in your frootloops this morning? If you don't want to hear anything more about Michael Bourn, don't read the article.

  • In reply to JeffK:

    Writing about the same guy over, and over.....if not Bourn, then it is about Soriano getting traded.

    Dead Horse for sure....

    Spring training starts in ...a another week....should be new stories to write...stories such as...
    "Stewart's Wrist Sore Again?"
    "Cubs New Billboards Starts Lawsuits"
    "Will Garza Sign or Be Traded or Head to DL Once Again"
    "Meet the New Cubs Clubhouse Manager"
    "Takahashi & Fujikawa - But Where is Fukudome?"

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    We mainly do analysis here. If you read carefully, which I suspect you haven't, this is less about Michael Bourn than it is about maximizing value through platoons, rotations, etc. It's about finding efficiency through undervalued players who can be utilized in a way to match the production you get from expensive players. It's about doing it with role players in a cost-efficient, creative way.

    If you want to write a blog based on inane commentary and made up rumors, I'm sure you can find a market for that. You can start with your brilliant idea of signing Jon Garland and his 82 mph heater.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Alright, ladies and gentlemen. Who had February 4, 2013 in the "When does John finally reach his limit with CubsTalk" betting pool?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'm a pretty patient guy. I would have taken a much later date! Maybe it's because I'm on 4 hours sleep and haven't had my coffee yet :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Low sugar count can also be the cause......

    I think John is still pissed off who the Cubs got in return when they traded away Garland to the White Sox.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    Boy you really have no clue when to stop, do you?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Your last name sounds like your personality.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I have to say the part about the Garland trade is true. Matt Karchner...grrrr. I almost threw my shoe at the TV when that deal was announced. And I still haven't forgiven Ed Lynch for that trade or the one where he traded Todd Noel for Felix Heredia. Noel never made it because of injuries, but he was more talented than Garland and Heredia was a bum. More interested in his radar readings than throwing strikes and getting guys out.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The thing about that deal that still kills, not a month later the Astros traded Freddy Garcia, Carlos Garcia, and the infamous PTBNL for Randy Johnson. I have to think that a Garland-Noel package would have been just as good, if not better.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Wow...forgot about that deal. More salt in the wound!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hilarious! Absolutely loved this response. It does seem John that you are writing with extra vigor today. I'll look forward to the Keith Law piece.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Thanks :) Should be up later today.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    the $75 million price tag is also a major concern to Theo above anything else.

    I believe Theo learned his mistakes with Lackey & Crawford.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    ROFL!!!! Thank God someone finally said it.

  • In reply to JeffK:

    If draft pick comp is enough reason for you, great.

    This is a different perspective that focused on short term value. This was about showing how it doesn't make sense even when we just consider 2013 alone.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Michael Bourn at $75 over 5 years (or even 1-3 years) plus draft compensation (1st or 2nd round) and Scott Boras as his agent has never made any sense, in my opinion. Especially when Bourn and Boras has stated they are unwilling to take anything less.

    I don't believe Bourn's talent is worth anything close to what he is asking. I also believe that the new CBA and draft pick compensation was all about putting an end to Boras' tactics.

    After what has happened this year with the likes of Bourn and Lohse there will not be a free agent who doesn't accept their qualifying offer moving forward.

  • In reply to JeffK:

    It wouldn't surprise me to see the system get some tweaks too. And if you're a 34 year old pitcher or a closer, you're going to have to think long and hard about that QO. I'm surprised Rafael Soriano got signed this year, but Nats going for it this year, so maybe they felt he was the final piece.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The system may get some tweaks, but I like it. It makes clubs look at their talent in more rational terms. And, from a free agent standpoint it makes the agent and the player do a true evaluation of their worth & talent.

    From a fan's perspective the rule, as it is written now, allows for more stability. I personally got tired a very long time ago with all the player moment under free agency. And, much of that player moment had nothing to do with winning -- it was all about the money and how much can they siphon off a team.

    One has to ask yourself was (is) Carl Crawford worth $20 million a year? Is A-rod worth his contract? Did Barry Zito earn his $126 million? In my opinion the answer is no.

    Just look at the new NBA CBA and the luxury tax issue that is hitting all teams hard. So, there won't be a lot of teams that can have 3 super stars and still be able to win a championship because they don't have enough money to sign supporting cast members.

    Or even the Super Bowl winning Ravens for that matter. ESPN was talking today about if the Ravens put the franchise tag on Flacco, they won't be able to re-sign 3 of their key players on their defense, so in the end they need to come up with a long term contract that is fair to all parties.

    Player salaries in all sports for marginally 'good' players has totally gotten out of whack and things like the Draft Compensation or $1.50 tax for every dollar over the cap are needed to salaries inline with reality.

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    Excellent analysis based on WAR. Speaking of WAR, hope it's OK to link to a Fangraphs article on the value of WAR:

    I personally think WAR overvalues defense, but I am not an expert; that's just a gut feeling. This probably also inflates Bourn's value, because he scores high in that regard, but offensively, he is OK, nothing special. He logged one more win than Hairston last year, but that was with 300+ extra PAs.

    Cubs should take a pass at almost any price, and I'm pretty sure they will

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    In reply to Zonk:

    PS: Unlike Bourn, is anyone even talking about Kyle Lohse? He was excellent last year, yet hardly a whisper. He's probably asking way too much, but still.....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    As much as I hate to say it, I feel like Lohse's success was directly related to the team in which he played. He was an average pitcher at best before joining the Cardinals. He had a great year last year but doesn't have overpowering stuff. I think GMs out there are weary of that and afraid he will become the pre-StLouis Kyle Lohse.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    As I said, BCB, Lohse has never done well except when Dave Duncan has been his pitching coach. Minnesota and Cincy, neither at the time topflight pitching staffs, let him go.And hes no spring chicken.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Lohse is definitely a short term fix and should go to a good team. And I think you're right. There's a big gap in terms of what his value is. I think most teams think he's a mid-rotation guy and he thinks he's a front line starter.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, Lohse wants to be paid like a Frontline starter, and Bore Us is his agent. Hes never succeeded anywhere Dave Duncan hasn't been and hes 34 YO, so a decline might be in the cards with him.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    That has to be in the equation too. Was he a product of his enviornment and can he continue the success into another organization as he moves further and further away from his peak years.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I'm pretty much good with linking any article that adds something new to the discussion, though I can't help the spam filter sometimes. It blocks stuff out automatically from time to time.

    I think things are getting better with defense metrics but they'll always be imperfect and we may see some player's values get skewed from time to time, including our own Alfonso Soriano.

    The Cubs front office has come as close as possible to saying they'll pass on Bourn, but the issue keeps coming up.

  • Keith Law released his farm system rankings and the Cubs came in at #5. Unfortunately, that's only second best in the division, but it's much higher than other rankings we've seen.

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    In reply to North Side Irish:

    Cardinals just had to be #1 There's no shame in being a worse farm system than theirs.

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    In reply to North Side Irish:

    Wow, that's pretty impressive considering we graduated our #1 prospect last year and more of our impact guys are in A-ball.

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    In reply to North Side Irish:

    Only Insider's can read Keith Law's articles.....can someone summarize his overall view of the Cubs system, without cutting and pasting?

    I think #5 is too high for us right now. Yes, we have some exciting bats, but they are mostly at lower-levels. Couple that with lack of pitching, particularly anyone beyond A-ball aside from Vizcaino, and I can't see ranking us that high.

    Let's see Baez, Vogelbach, Almora, etc, get to AA and hit there. THEN we can truly get excited

  • In reply to Zonk:

    It's just high level stuff...Cubs did a good job in the international market to add Soler and Paniagua. And that the "The Cubs also scored big in last year’s draft, addressing the system’s lack of starting pitching candidates while also bulking up its depth in outfield prospects".

    Law is releasing his prospect rankings this week, so this is just kind of an overview of the systems. His intro says he was surprised how few systems had impact talent and depth. Plus with so many top prospects graduating, systems were kind of weaker than usual.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    I saw that actually and maybe I'll write something on it later. Law is unique in that he does a lot of his own scouting and he does much of it in AZ. He sees a lot more of the Cubs young pitching than most prospect gurus so he has more familiarity with a lot of guys that some are still unsure about.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Just saw that as well NSI. Is a promising sign that more than one rating source thinks we are on the upside.

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    A major argument for getting Bourne now is that he can be traded to recoup the lost draft pick. I'm not sure this is fair.

    A decent comp is Hunter Pence, who the Phillies traded to the Giants last year. The major piece coming back was catching prospect Tommy Joseph. (Nate Schierholtz and A-ball closer Seth Rosin also came over.)

    No doubt Joseph is a nice piece, but he was drafted as an offensive catcher, and his numbers have been pretty pedestrian to this point. Compare him to the Cubs last 2 second round draft picks: Dan Vogelbach, who everyone knows about, and Duane Underwood, whose ceiling is #1 starter. I don't think the Cubs would move wither one for Joseph right now. Given that -- why do we think we could get better value than the second round pick by trading Bourn?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Good point. I think it's been assumed the Cubs could flip Bourn for a good player but we don't know that -- and with teams hesitating to sign him over a draft pick, it's really tough to imagine, barring a catastrophic need that arises, they'll want to give more value than that later. Because the Cubs pick is so high this year, they have to feel they'll get someone as good as Pierce Johnson, whom the Cubs like a ton.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Just noticed this. Good point back on Johnson and also you bring up catastrophic need -- one of the main reasons the Phillies got as good a return as they did was because the Melky Cabrera situation completely took any bargaining power at all away from the Giants. We know they were actually interested in Soriano, which appears to be pretty rare right now.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Vogelbach is fast becoming Vogelboom.

  • Bourn wants $75 Million......

    Lets stop this silly talk about Bourn being a Cub.

    Theo signing Jon Garland to a minor league deal have better odds.

  • John, Great analysis as usual. I love felzz and all (and I promise to read his article next week), but I have never understood the interest in Bourn. There just aren't enough positives even on the short term and as you very clearly stated there are significant negatives. With the objectives of the Cubs being what they are, I feel good about going into spring training with the team the FO has assembled. The key is what the FO sees as the focus for 2013. Sure they would like to compete, but getting more parts and player development are more important at this point. This year is critical for Jackson and probably Vitters. Winning an extra game or two (even to squeak into the playoffs) is not worth any loss on the long term player development front.

  • In reply to les561:

    Thanks Les and I think you hit the nail on the head. I think few would argue Bourn has value in the long term for the Cubs. The only way to recoup that is to get a trade that is so good for him down the road that it significantly outweighs the other losses, including that of a draft pick. Then when you realize the net short term impact probably won't be signifcant either, it makes it even tougher to justify it -- and even if you could, this organization has repeatedly said it would error on the side of long term thinking. That just doesn't fit Bourn at all.

  • It doesn't take into account that Mike Trout signed for the same money for the same 2-3 years would not make an impact on whether the Cubs go to the World Series. Bourn's contribution would be for naught! Worthless, and an investment that ultimately would be a waste of finances and block other athletes that would be contributing to the long term success in 3-5 years. Forget him! John has a better perception of this!

  • Another great piece of analysis! Thanks John.

    When can we expect a deep look at what type of impact those 19 hot dogs eaten by Babe Ruth in a single sitting had on his career?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks Toby! As for Babe Ruth, I'll have to say I'm less versed in hot dog eating metrics.

  • John,Thanks this is proof of why I come back to Cubs-Den 2-3 times a day. I agree with every thing you stated, but I think defense is more important than most people. The only reason I would sign him is to increase the pitchers values through his defense then trade the pitchers and Bourn. That is the only way to recoup the draft pick IMO.

  • In reply to cbbiefun2014:

    Thanks! I think that's the best single argument for signing Bourn. It could theoretically have that sort of ripple effect. The question is how much? Can they quantify it and how much should they pay for it?

  • John, just want to say that I very much enjoy and appreciate the work you guys do. Ever since I discovered this blog last fall, it's been my number one site, visiting and checking for new stories several times a day. And (most) the guys who comment here regularly are also good reads. I love this site. Thank you and keep up the good work.

    Can't wait for Spring Training and Opening Day!

    Let's Go Cubs!

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Thanks nondorf!

  • I have three words for Cubbie nation-LEAVE BOURN ALONE.

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    Awesome article John. Thanks.

    I know there's a rule-of-thumb for setting salary based on WAR, but is there anything similar for WAR improvement? Obviously one more win means more to a club that's close to contention than one that isn't, but I'm wondering what a 0.9 WAR improvement would be worth financially - on average.

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    In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    If that metric doesn't exist, it should. Though it would be difficult to get a monetary value that distinguishes your 68th win in a season from your 79th. It would have to take things like draft picks and likelihood of making the playoffs into account.

    Suddenly I really want to make this...

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    The interesting thing on this is how much more valuable signing a pitcher becomes, since your new starter (let's say) is actually replacing your worst current starter who maybe moves to the bullpen and bumps an even less valuable reliever. The ripple effects are a lot more significant.

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    In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    That does add a level. Unless you're the Phillies, if you sign a starter you don't really have to ask yourself where he fits in. Whereas, when the Tigers signed Prince, they really did have to do position Jenga with everyone else.

    You and I should talk about this some.

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    Thanks. I have to think teams take that into the overall consideration. Remember that in free agency however, you are paying for that player's individual value. Net gain in WAR is something teams may use to help decide whether it's worth making the investment at all.

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    Great article John. This is something I've argued with fans for a long time. Adding player X doesn't happen in a vaccum and the perceived benefit is never as great as imagined.

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Thanks Ken! I think it's something that gets lost in the excitement. Once had a discussion with someone on Twitter who was saying how much better the Nationals rotation was going to be now that they signed Haren. Reminding him that it wasn't so much of an upgrade but rather that Haren would essentially be replacing the departing Edwin Jackson's production didn't seem to dampen his enthusiasm much.

  • I think taking Soriano out of the equation shoots this thought experiment in the foot a bit, as a lot of the talk has been moving Soriano and signing Bourn. Also, ignoring the money side of it never tells the whole picture. Obviously, if we could get Bourn for 3 mil a year, it would be dumb not to, even if someone accepted your entire argument as absolutely true. He won't fall that low of course, but my point is there is a financial line of demarcation here, separating a deal that makes sense from one that doesn't.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Soriano, like Bourn, is slated to be an everyday player and so doesn't really factor into the main theme of the article, which is maximizing the value of role players through platoon splits and defensive positional value, rather than using a lot of money one player for essentially the same production.

    Getting into contingencies about trading one player so you can sign another is a whole subject onto itself and would probably warrant a different type of discussion.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I can appreciate that. And I like the platoon splits idea. I think it's something we're going to see more and more by teams, especially at 1b. My thinking is just that there's a certain contract amount that Bourn could fall to where a platoon in right and left with Bourn in center provides more value than a platoon in right and center with Soriano in left.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Something like...

    DeJesus/Hairston in LF
    Bourn in CF
    Schierholtz/Sappelt in RF

    Without doing the calculations, my guess is that would be a better outfield than the one they would have now, in large part because of the added defensive value at all 3 positions. If the Cubs somehow manage to unload Soriano, which has obviously been extremely problematic, and Bourn is still out there unsigned, then maybe we'll revisit that idea. For now, I have to assume Soriano is going to be with the Cubs when the season opens. It doesn't look they're anywhere close to trading him at this point.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It can be difficult finding a position player who can equal the numbers offensively of a good platoon, but I am still not comfortable with a less defense type platoon up the middle. I am not convenced that good defense on the corners makes it ok. Often the most successful platoons are at the corners.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like that defense. And gotta figure the prospects we'd get for Sori would more than offset the the pick we give up in compensation for signing Bourne. Then we flip Bourne if and when BJax is ready.

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    Gotta tell ya John, this type of article is why most of us come to this blog! You make us little guys look pretty damn smart around the water cooler. LOL

    The selfish part of me would hate to see you get a job with the Cubs front office but at least we can all say "we knew John Arguello when."

    Another job well done sir!!!

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Haha! Thanks!

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    I'd like to see Sorianos #'s against Bourns.....I never really liked Bourn and feel he is overrated. I think I'd go with what we have right now and see what needs to be addressed later on. Any other
    FA signing might throw off the positive vibe I'm feeling for the ball cub right now.

  • Why did you pick CAIRO WAR? They seem to be very high on Sappelt for no reason at all. In fact they project his WAR to be almost equal to Hairston and DeJesus combined. That is not very likely to happen.

    Also, you severely underrate Bourn's defense in CF compared to a DeJesus/Sappelt platoon. The difference throughout an entire year, would be alone be worth acquiring Bourn for.

    I think it boils down to whether or not Bourn's legs are going to hold up for another 4 years. If so, and he can be had for a reasonable/cheap contract it is a no-brainer.

  • That's some great analysis as usual John. I always like to have some player studies available "in case the Cubs ever ask for my opinion"...HA, so it's a little tough to believe there are actually others like yourself who have a more severe case of Cubs fever.

    John from Denmark raised the question of how the WAR analysis would come out if instead of Soriano in LF and platoons in CF and RF, the Cubs had Bourn in CF with platoons in the corners. To me, that would make the most sense but it would mean trading Soriano, which I realize is much easier said than done.

    As I stated before, I'd only be interested in Bourn for a 1-2 year deal, if the dollars were right. With his options shrinking more and more, I still wonder if the scenario could possibly play out where it would make sense for the Cubs to step in. IMO, Bourn offers more value than he's given credit for it seems by the majority here.

    Bourn's BA's are somewhat pedestrian (.280 avg BA over the past four yrs) for a guy with little power to speak of, but his OBP (.348, .349, .341 and .354 over the past four yrs) and speed makes him a legitimate leadoff hitter. Bourn has averaged 54 SB's and an 81% SB success ratio over the past four seasons. Combine that speed and OBP with exceptional defense and he not only helps build value for your pitching staff, he also brings value for a contender at the trading deadline. He just turned 30, he's not in his middle thirties. I wouldn't expect a decline from him in the next couple of years.

    The fact that Bourn has yet to find a job for 2013 doesn't mean he doesn't have value to MLB clubs. It's simply that the gap between his asking price and actual value is significant. Will he "settle" in the next week or so for the best offer, or wait until June so that signing him won't mean losing a draft pick? It's anyone's guess, but I'm just saying that I could see a scenario under which signing Bourn would make some sense for the Cubs.

  • Thanks. I think it's actually much simpler because you swap out Bourne's projected value for Soriano's. Most project regression from both, with Soriano going into about the 2 WAR range and Bourn at about 3-3.5. We're talking about a difference theoretically of about a win or two at most. You're still overpaying because not only will you have to pay 13-15M for Bourn, you'll alsohave to pay at least $10M/yr of Sori's salary. The cost of adding a win or two becomes $20-$23M. Yes, you're better, but you're doing it with horrific inefficiency.

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