Not a few days ago, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com identified Jason Heyward to the Cubs as the most impactful move of the NL Central. To come to that conclusion, Cassavell subtracted the projected win total of each team’s biggest acquisition from the projected win total of the entire team. Heyward’s projected 5.1 WAR, as it turns out, is the biggest difference maker.
Of course, the Cubs have made a lot of seriously significant moves this offseason, including four free agent signings and one major trade. Zooming out from the NL Central, then, it’s fair to wonder how the Cubs offseason transactions stack up against the rest of the league.
Luckily, Dave Cameron has us covered.
In an article for FanGraphs, Cameron ranks the Best Transactions of the 2016 Offseason* and the Chicago Cubs are all over the list. In fact, four of the Cubs five main transactions (Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey, Adam Warren) getting a mention. Only the Trevor Cahill re-signing – a sneakily impressive move – wasn’t included.
Number nine on the list is the Cubs’ signing of Ben Zobrist. Although Cameron believes the Cubs would have been perfectly fine going into 2016 with Starlin Castro as their primary second baseman, he views the addition of Zobrist as a unique opportunity to upgrade at a position for relatively low cost.
Not only did the Cubs actually upgrade at second base, signing Zobrist allowed the Cubs to acquire Adam Warren who could ultimately start for the Cubs a year or two down the line. The kicker, for Cameron, is that for just an additional $4 million per year, the Cubs upgraded both their lineup and bullpen for 2016. I would add that they also increased their versatility, greatly improved their starting pitching depth in 2016, and added a potential starter for 2017 and beyond.
Speaking of starting pitching, the two-year John Lackey deal receives one of the nine honorable mentions. Lackey has the potential to be a nice stabilizing force in the middle of the rotation, where he can soak up innings, and keep the bullpen fresh for Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel (who might go through the order for a third time much less frequently than the rest of the lineup).
There is plenty more in that article, including more on the Cubs’ players, so you should definitely check it out.
*(In case you are interested, by the way, the top move of the offseason comes from the Braves. If you recall, they acquired Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair for just three years of Shelby Miller. Miller has plenty of upside, youth and cost control, but he has never been more than a 3.4 WAR pitcher. His xFIP the last three seasons (4.07, 4.47, 3.73) is downright mediocre. As of now, there is no doubt that the Diamondbacks were fleeced on that one.)