Since the day Theo Epstein took over the Cubs’ baseball operations, we wondered when (and even if) the Cubs would shell out major dollars in free agency in a way other major market teams are accustomed to doing.
We got a taste of it last offseason and then again this offseason. More than that, the big-time spending appears to have come at the most opportune time.
FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards recently wrote that the class of 2015 was incredibly good, noting the average WAR of the top-10 free agents was 4.7 — the highest it has been in the last five offseasons. This class is also noticeably younger, with the top-10’s age averaging out to 28.9, which is the youngest it has been since 2011.
Steamer’s average projected WAR of the top-10 free agent signings this offseason is 3.5, which seems low. But considering each player’s performance in 2015 and that projections tend to be on the conservative side, a 3.5 WAR seems like a good floor from which to work from moving forward.
And while the Cubs sacrificed age with John Lackey and Ben Zobrist, they didn’t sacrifice projected production. The Cubs’ trio of Heyward (4.9), Zobrist (3.0) and Lackey (2.9) average out to be worth a significant per-player projected WAR of 3.6 in 2016.
Further, with the cost of 1-WAR bought in free agency worth approximately $8 million in 2016, it turns out the Cubs are paying $37.5 million in 2016 to those three players for $86.4 million worth of projected production.
As the recent history highlighted in Edwards’ piece shows, young free agent classes that are also talented don’t come around too often (next offseason looks like an especially weak free agent class). Which makes the idea of the Cubs spending big this year seem like a wise investment.