Today is option decision day, and the Chicago Cubs held a $5 million option on lefty starter Tsuyoshi Wada for 2015. We’ve discussed that option at length over the past couple months, and it became clear that it was a very close call.
How close? Well, the Cubs just signed Wada to a one-year deal before having to make that option decision, and the price on the contract is reportedly $4 million with a chance at $2 million in incentives, per Patrick Mooney, and Carrie Muskat. I’d call that as close as it possibly gets.
Wada, who will be 34 next year, pitched well on a minor league deal for the Cubs in 2014:
After dominating at AAA Iowa in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery (and first full year in the States), Wada posted a 3.22 ERA, 3.67 FIP, and 3.92 xFIP over 12 big league starts and 64.1 innings. He struck out 19.9% of batters he faced, and walked just 6.8%. His other peripherals suggest that his results were fairly reflective of his actual performance, making his ERA/FIP/xFIP all the more impressive for a guy the Cubs grabbed on a minor league deal.
In 2015, given that he’ll be another year removed from Tommy John surgery, it’s possible Wada could duplicate his 2014 success, or even build upon it, despite his age.
What does the re-signing mean for the Cubs’ offseason and pitching staff? Well, I’d be cautious about making any assumptions. Because Wada’s price tag is low and because his role is more of a back-end starter, he can still be viewed as something of a depth arm. He gives the Cubs options at the back of the rotation if they aren’t able to land all of their top targets this offseason, he could theoretically pitch out of the pen, and he’s also probably a pretty interesting trade chip.
At a $4 million commitment, Wada is not breaking the bank. And, with a full offseason to come, you can’t possibly know what you’ll be able to do and who will be available. So, you make a decision about Wada’s value as an asset – I do believe he’s worth this much – pull the trigger, and sort out the fit later.
The Cubs are now overflowing with options at the back of the rotation, and that’s a good thing. Having Wada around – at least for the offseason – provides a little injury protection, as well as protection against failing to get that second quality starter the Cubs say they will be pursuing. There are far worse fifth starters out there than Tsuyoshi Wada.
The signing probably makes it incrementally less likely that Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood stay with the Cubs through the offseason, and, even if they do, the rotation competition is going to be fierce.