FanGraphs Baseball


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  1. I had a feeling the Cubs would get dinged because of the infamously bad run of contracts they generously doled out. I do not believe this is the current direction for the club, however. I believe it was an anomalous time and we are unlikely to see that type of spending spree again in the near future. The Trib tried to maximize the perceived value of the franchise before selling it for just short of a gazillion dollars.

    So, I’m having a tough time figuring out this ranking. New ownerships are said to be big fans of advanced statistical analysis, they have already set strict budget limits and have expressed a desire to grow from within. If it’s about the direction the club is heading than I disagree.

    So is it current talent? For a team that’s had three straight winning seasons, including 2 division titles, and expects to contend again this year you can’t ding them too much on talent alone. Did they pay way too much for this talent? Absolutely. But they do have talent that is good enough to contend in and even win the NL Central. While not among baseball’s elite or worth their immense payroll, the current talent isn’t a big problem.

    Is it future talent? Most reputable sites, including this one, recognize the Cubs system as one on the rise with several potential impact prospects and some intriguing names at the lower levels who are potential breakout prospects this year. It’s hard to say they’d rank this low based on their farm system.

    The only answer I can come to is that the Cubs were penalized for spending too much for the talent they received during the Tribune’s desperate attempts to create a WS contender before dumping them off at an inflated price. Is this unfortunate period a factor as new ownership tries to restore sanity? Sure, it’s definitely a handicap and adversely affects the overall health of the organization but, in my opinion, far too much weight seems to have put on the past transgressions of a greedy corporate ownership trying to make a few dollars more.

    Comment by John — March 23, 2010 @ 11:54 am

  2. The team’s not that good. Most projection systems have them right around 80 wins, as noted in the article.

    That’s seems about right for 18th.

    Comment by snapper — March 23, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  3. If projected wins were the sole criteria then maybe that’s justified, but they aren’t, not according to the guidelines set at the beginning of this series.

    Comment by John — March 23, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

  4. Sure. But if current talent (~80 Wins) is right for 18th, you have future talent, which maybe is a better than that, but you have their payroll issues (basically maxed out for the next 3 years), which knocks them back down a few notches.

    The authors have already said that there are a big cluster of teams in the teens to low 20’s w/o a lot od difference between them. I don’t see how 18th is that far off.

    Comment by snapper — March 23, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

  5. “For a team that’s had three straight winning seasons, including 2 division titles, and expects to contend again this year you can’t ding them too much on talent alone.”

    3 straight winning seasons isn’t “current”.
    Who doesn’t “expect to contend” this year?

    I personally expect them to finish 3rd.

    My only qualm with this article is the adjective “slick” when used to describe Theriot’s defense. “Average” or “Solid, if unspectacular” would’ve been a better fit IMO.

    Comment by Norm — March 23, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  6. Let’s put aside that you are putting an inordinate emphasis on the dubious practice of projecting team wins, then what do we say of the Mets? They are projected for less wins, their farm system is not as strong, their payroll is just as bloated, and their ownership has no direction. It seems an inconsistency to me.

    Anyway, it’s apparent you’ll probably defend the website until you’re blue in the face but I do have a different opinion than the authors here. Even the authors will tell you this is a subjective ranking and not so objective as you’re trying to make it be by equating projected with overall organizational health. I think the ranking is based on the long term expensive contracts the club recently doled out more than any projected win system and it’s my opinion that this shortcoming was given too much emphasis. The argument you’re trying to make, which has you putting much emphasis on projected wins makes far less sense to me.

    Comment by John — March 23, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

  7. Does anyone else think it makes sense for the Cubs to call the Reds about Yonder Alonso after 2010? The performances of both he and Derrek Lee this season will dictate the practicality of such an proposal, but I think there’s some merit to this idea.

    Derrek Lee is a good player, who may well be worth re-signing after this year, but there’s also a lot of merit in not wanting to sink years and dollars into a big, aging first baseman. You could argue that D-Lee is good enough of an athlete to perhaps stave off some of the effects of old age, but there are rumblings that new ownership wants to see some results out of the farm system, and there isn’t an obvious heir apparent to Lee, making the young, roadblocked Yonder Alonso a sensible alternative.

    Cincinnati agreed to terms with Orlando Cabrera on a one year deal plus a mutual option this offseason, but there’s no guarantee that he’s the long-term answer at a position the Reds have been unable to stabilize since Barry Larkin retired. With Ryan Theriot progressively moving from extremely cost-effective asset to decent player being paid about market value, there’s a lot of reason to think the Reds would be willing to pay his increasing price tag for the sake of getting a slightly younger (albeit 30+ year old) shortstop who could still easily be a 2-2.5 win player in 2011 and 2012. The Cubs expect Starlin Castro to be ready next year, and they figure to have too many options at second base to pass up on the opportunity to cash in on a soon-to-decline veteran like Theriot.

    Alonso was a first-round pick, and he would almost certainly cost more than just 2 years of Ryan Theriot, but the Cubs also have a veteran arm or two (Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzellany, maybe even Carlos Marmol) they could add to the mix, and I think there’s enough depth in their system to form a legitimate offer for the Reds. They’re a team on the cusp of contention, and adding a few solid veterans at reasonable cost would go a long way towards solidifying themselves as perennial playoff contenders. Meanwhile, the Cubs would add a young left-handed presence to an aging, predominantly right-handed roster.

    There’s plenty of reason to doubt that an intradivison trade of this magnitude is all that feasible, but I think it a lot of ways it would be a mutually beneficial deal for the clubs involved.

    Comment by Randy — March 23, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

  8. The Mets should be coming up soon.

    Their overall talent level is probably similar, but it’s distributed better.

    They’ve got 3 or 4 guys who can be super-stars if healthy. The Cubs don’t have that. Also, their budget situation is better (they cut $25M this year which presumably is avaliable in the future). That said, their division is tougher.

    But really, there’s no difference between ranking 16th and 20th. Why stress about it?

    Comment by snapper — March 23, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

  9. So what exactly are future projections based on if not a prediction based on information from the recent past? Much of that projection is based on predicted regression from the poor performance from the past year alone. Last year Pecota projected the Cubs with 97 wins based on trends from the year before, and as we all know, those trends didn’t hold true. Forgive me if I don’t place such faith in a projection system that is subject to too many variables.

    I do agree with you that slick is not a word I would describe Theriot’s defense either. Solid, heady, workmanlike…those are the types of adjectives I would use.

    Comment by John — March 23, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

  10. Not a bad idea if it can be done. Unless you assume Vitters will move to first, the Cubs have no real prospect there and if they plan on shedding contracts next year, starting with Lee…it would be a good idea to have a low cost replacement waiting in the wings.

    Comment by John — March 23, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

  11. Makes some sense from need, but I’d think the Reds would want more upside in the 2nd player, a real B+ type prospect, if they’re giving up a former 1st rounder.

    Also, the intradivision thing is tough. Do the Cubs and Reds trade?

    Comment by snapper — March 23, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

  12. There are going to be WAY too many 1B options to really even broach this topic yet.

    Comment by Norm — March 23, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

  13. I’m just expressing an opinion that’s different than the authors while you’re expending an equal amount of energy trying to rationalize the author’s opinion. I don’t see one endeavor as more stressful than the other. It’s the author’s opinion and subjective rating, it’s meant to be up for discussion. You can choose to make your opinion or adopt the author’s. I chose to have a different opinion. Don’t make it out to be more than that.

    Comment by John — March 23, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

  14. Not really. Not unless you count the monumental Buck Coats for Marcus Mateo trade a couple of years ago. That’s a legitimate obstacle for this kind of trade. The second player would be another obstacle, especially when you consider the potential difficulties in trying to assess Alonso’s fair value. I’m going to have to agree with Norm in that there will be many first base options and the Cubs should really explore them all.

    Comment by John — March 23, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

  15. The Cubs have 25MM coming off the books after 2010 (Lee 13M, Lilly 12M). Aramis Ramirez has a 14.5M player option. Ricketts has stated that he’ll keep the Cubs payroll in the top 3. The Cubs being restricted in the future by their payroll is overstated.

    Comment by Nate — March 23, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

  16. Yeah, but how many of the options are first base are really all that attracitve? Is there really any need for the Cubs to sink dollars and years into a player like Carlos Pena? Sure he’s left-handed, but he’s pretty much the exact kind of player you don’t want to invest too much in. Other than that, there are a few decent options, with Adam Dunn pretty much standing out amongst the rest (there’s no way that either of Pujols or Berkman will be available), but the opportunity to bring in a young, left-handed, cost-controlled, former first-rounder seems like a more desireable route to take.

    The Reds don’t have room for Alonso, and the Cubs have the kind of players Cincinnati should be focused on surrounding guys like Votto and Bruce with.

    Comment by Randy — March 23, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

  17. John: *PLAYER* stats are based on past performance. *TEAM* stats are not. So your error is in referencing the fact that the Cubs have had three straight winning seasons and two division titles. That speaks nothing to the current line-up of the players.

    It’s the players that will drive this year’s performance, not the rosters and line-ups of the team three years ago.

    Comment by Matt Harms — March 23, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

  18. Desirable, yes…but I’m not sure the Cubs and Reds would be so willing to help each other. The Cubs would immediately improve the Reds and the Reds would be giving the Cubs a potential star. Personally, I’d take that tradeoff (depending on the players involved, of course) but I’m not the one with anything to lose. When I said the Cubs should explore all options I wasn’t necessarily referring to free agents. There are other prospects and trades to be made, you could switch Vitters to 1st and find a low cost 3rd baseman, etc. I really like the Alonso idea. I’m just not sure it can actually happen.

    Comment by John — March 23, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

  19. Matt: Of course. But the Cubs main players (I’ll leave the unneeded starred/capped emphasis to you) are the same ones as they’ve from the teams of their past few years. And the team projection is based on those players’ individual projections…is it not? The core of the team is still the same, their best players now are the best players they’ve had for the past two years. As far as I’m concerned, it may as well be synomynous. It’s not like the Cubs acquired terrible players like Byrd (projected 2.6 WAR) to replace great ones(Milton Bradley’s 1.1 WAR from last year’s team). The projected win total has more to do with the regression of their core players than the value of the couple of pieces they’ve added or subracted this relatively uneventful offseason.

    Comment by John — March 23, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

  20. Vitters’ OBP issues would only be exacerbated by a shift to first base, where a .330 OBP is borderline unacceptable. Vitters will never be a standout at third, but the consensus appears to be that he has what it takes to stick at the position for at least the early stages of his career.

    Obviously, the fact that this trade would involve division rivals potentially making eachother better, that I don’t think that necessarily precludes such a deal from occuring. At the very least, I think it’s fair to say it would be foolish by both team to write offthe possibility of such a deal for the simple reason they share the same division.

    Comment by Randy — March 23, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

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