Joe Maddon’s official arrival yesterday was rightly the big news, but I want to give a little more attention to the re-signing of Tsuyoshi Wada, who will receive $4 million in 2015 (with up to $2 million in incentives).
Let’s look at some numbers: 3.25 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 3.96 xFIP last year (small sample of 69.1 innings). That’s what Wada did in his time with the Cubs. The league average slash line in those categories was 3.66/3.69/3.67. That puts Wada quite a bit ahead in ERA, about average in FIP, and below average in xFIP.
On the balance, Wada was right about league average. You’re unimpressed? Well, here’s the thing: a league average pitcher was worth about $10 to $12 million in 2014. So, even if Wada is slightly below average in 2015, there’s quite a bit of value at $4 million (or $6 million, with incentives – and if he gets the incentives, he was probably worth even more). That value can be realized by the Cubs, depending on how the offseason proceeds, or by another team if the Cubs’ depth proves bountiful and the market for Wada could net an interesting player/prospect.
If Wada does remain with the Cubs, the reasonable presumption is that he’ll compete for a rotation spot, the difficulty of which will depend greatly on what the Cubs do this offseason. But what about something else?
I’ve come around on the idea that Wada could wind up an interesting long man out of the pen, too.
Everything is small sample in 69.1 innings, but we saw it consistently with Wada last year: the first two times through the order, he was excellent (indeed, the first time through the order, batters hit a measly .204/.250/.278; the second time through, they were still below average at .255/.313/.377). But that third time through the order, he was blasted to the tune of a .360/.429/.820 line. Woof.
The third-time-through-the-order effect is pretty much universal in baseball, but it was really pronounced for Wada. And for a guy who uses deception and a sneaky fastball to get lots of fly ball outs, you can understand why that is. Might that make him an ideal long reliever? A guy who could be very good for two or three-inning stretches? Just thinking out loud, given the Cubs’ extreme back-of-the-rotation depth.
As far as Wada as a LOOGY type, I’d need more data/information to make an informed decision. He was absolutely nails against lefties in the big leagues last year, but the sample was really too small to draw conclusions. At AAA, his L/R splits were nearly identical. I can envision a scenario where his deceptive style is even more difficult on lefties, and where he could maybe add a couple MPH in short duty, but I’m not certain. And I’m also not certain that’s where he could provide the most value to the Cubs.