The Curious Case of Chris Coghlan

Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein have been praised over and over for how well they draft and how they sign pitchers like Scott Feldman and Jason Hammel to one-year contracts and flip them for Jake Arrieta, Addison Russell, and Billy McKinney.  The hype they have created about the Cubs farm system is unimaginable and deserving.  But I’m not here to talk about how great the farm system is, it’s been repeated to us a million times.

Chicago’s 2013-2014 offseason signings were headlined by players like Nate Schierholtz and Emilio Bonifacio (especially after his hot start), but the best free agent pick up came from a minor league contract and has been undervalued by the Cubs fan all season.

I’m here to talk about the Curious Case of Chris Coghlan.

Chris Coghlan was the Rookie of the Year in 2009 when he played for the Marlins.  He put up a .321/.390/.460 line and had a wRC+ on 127.

In 2010 Coghlan became an average hitter putting up a pedestrian line of .268/.335/.383.

His decline continued until he hit rock bottom in 2012 only playing 39 games with the big club and putting up numbers that shouldn’t be uttered.  But just so you don’t have to go look them up yourself: .140/.212/.183.  *He did miss a lot of time due to injury

In 2013 Coghlan put up numbers comparable to his 2010 season and the Cubs front office must have liked the upward trend because they signed the 29-year-old to a minor-league contract that gives them team control until 2017.  This was not an investment but a very low-risk speculation, and right now the Cubs have their second-most productive hitter only making ~$500,000 this year.

Yeah, I said it: Chris Coghlan is the Chicago Cubs’ second-most productive hitter. (Behind Rizzo)  Not Castro, not Baez (yet, needs more PA), not Ruggiano, the only player relatively close was Bonifacio.

Coghlan has put up numbers that are comparable to his Rookie of the Year season:

2009:                                                                                   2014:

BABIP: .365                                                                      BABIP: .333 (2nd on Cubs)

wRC+: 127                                                                         wRC+: 135 (2nd on Cubs)

wOBA: .374                                                                       wOBA: .369 (2nd on Cubs)

Walk Rate: 10.9 %                                                           Walk Rate: 10.6% (2nd on Cubs)

K Rate: 13.6%                                                                    K Rate: 16.9 % (1st on Cubs)


Right now Chris Coghlan realizes 35% more value in Runs Created than the average position player.  And although he doesn’t have enough PA to be qualified for the FanGraphs leaderboards, plugging his numbers in would put him in the class of players like Carlos Gomez, Matt Kemp, Melky Cabrera, Ryan Braun,  and Ben Zobrist.

What those players will be making this year followed by their wRC+ and wOBA:

Carlos Gomez: 7 Million, 135, .370

Matt Kemp: 21 Million 133, .358

Melky Cabrera: 8 Million 137, .374

Ryan Braun: 10 Million 129, .362

Ben Zobrist: 7 Million 132, .356

Chris Coghlan: 500k, 135, .369

The Chicago Cubs are paying 500k dollars for the offensive production of Carlos Gomez.  It’s almost scary how similar their numbers are:

Name                    Slash                                      wRC+                    wOBA

Gomez                 .289/.352/.490                   135                         .370

Coghlan                .288/.367/.477                   135                         .369


With the assumed call up of Soler in September, there is one outfield spot left for Coghlan.  And with the development of Almora stunted a little bit in his call-up to AA it seems Coghlan has some more time to prove himself, and also prove he brings value to the Cubs in other ways.

With the army of prospect the Cubs will be calling up these next couple years it would be downright crazy to believe that some players aren’t going to struggle.  I really don’t feel like I have to draw the conclusion for you but I will anyways.  Even if Coghlan’s playing time and numbers decrease next year, the Cubs will have a 30-year-old who has been Rookie of the Year while also having a 30-year-old player who has gone through major slumps and bounced back. Chris is (hopefully) somebody who can be a mentor for the up and coming while still giving value of somewhere between 115-120 wRC+.

For all of the things that Theo and Jed have done for the Cubs, I think I’m right here to argue that the signing of Chris Coghlan has realized the most value of any position player signing they have made.  The Chicago Cubs are paying $500k for Carlos Gomez offensive output, let that sink in.

Maybe the Curios Case of Chris Coghlan is just like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (but with better alliteration) in the fact that Coghlan is playing younger as he’s getting older.

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6 Responses to “The Curious Case of Chris Coghlan”

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  1. Jim S. says:

    To compare Coghlan, a platoon player with 262 PA, to Gomez is ridiculous. Try using a few counting stats.

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    • tz says:

      I agree, though using the rate stats does help the dramatic effect of recognizing a guy who I honestly thought had played his way out of baseball.

      Coughlan’s case might best be described as an example of the fine line between being an adequate big-league regular and being replacement-level. If you look at his splits after his rookie season, you’ll see that (1) his BABIP took a nose dive and (2) his performance against lefties went AWOL (his career performance against fellow lefties ain’t bad).

      It could just be a downward spiral of injuries interrupting the repetitions he needed to mature as a big-league hitter, especially against LHP. Given the opportunity this year with the Cubs, he’s gotten his hitting back on track (in part because of some good BABIP).

      So, while I wouldn’t compare him at all with Gomez (Coughlan only has some of his baserunning value and absolutely none of his defensive value), this was an interesting case of an under-the-radar comeback.

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    • Sinnycal says:

      He’s got fewer PAs because he started the season in AAA; not because he’s a platoon player. He’s played in 93 out of the 103 games since he was called up, and most of the ones he didn’t play were early after his callup. He’s an everyday player for the Cubs at this point. Of the last 30 games in which he made an appearance, only 4 were as a pinch hitter. And he’s given them no reason to protect him in a platoon, frankly, as he’s actually hit better against LHP than against RHP this season.

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  2. Jt says:

    I would argue that Scott Feldman was the best signing. To be able to acquire a legit front of the rotation started and a lights out reliever for him is going to really help the cubs future

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  3. Brad says:

    I think “The Curious case of _________” has been used enough that it’s no longer clever (if it ever was).

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  4. really!?! says:

    thanks for that Brad.

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