Last season, the Chicago Cubs (92-70) won their second consecutive NL Central title, while the St. Louis Cardinals (83-72) finished in third and nearly ten games behind their rivals. They were also eliminated from postseason contention by the Cubs, who also clinched in St. Louis. Sorry. Had to mention.
However, as Theo Epstein predicted, the Cardinals did not move slowly this winter: “We’ve expected the Cardinals to have a huge offseason,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said earlier this month at the winter meetings. “They’re positioned really well, with a strong farm system, a lot of movable parts and lots of payroll flexibility.” Indeed, the Cardinals have made a series of quality moves this winter, featuring the addition of Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins.
With this and other moves in mind, Jesse Rogers (ESPN) asked whether the Cardinals’ offseason may have closed the gap in the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry? It looks to the future of the teams, has quotes from both sides, and presents an interesting topic to consider.
It also got me thinking a little more narrowly about this offseason so far.
Since the Steamer Projections are out for both teams (we have the Cardinals ZiPS, but not the Cubs yet), I thought we could look at the players that each team has lost and added from the 2017 season until now, and sum up the projected WAR lost/gained for 2018. It’s a really rough way to look at the topic, with about a thousand caveats necessary, but it could be a fun, quick way to gauge where these two teams may stand.
Cubs Lost: 6.0 WAR
- Jake Arrieta (FA) – 2.7 WAR
- Wade Davis (FA) – 0.7 WAR
- John Lackey (FA) – 0.0 WAR
- Jon Jay (FA) – 0.5 WAR
- Koji Uehara (FA) – 0.0 WAR
- Alex Avila (FA) – 1.6 WAR
- Brian Duensing (FA) – 0.1 WAR
- Rene Rivera (FA) – 0.0 WAR
- Hector Rondon (FA) – 0.4 WAR
Cubs Added: 3.2 WAR
- Brandon Morrow (FA) – 0.7 WAR
- Steve Cishek (FA) – 0.4 WAR
- Tyler Chatwood (FA) – 1.9 WAR
- Drew Smyly (FA) – 0.1 WAR
- Dario Alvarez (FA) – 0.1 WAR
Cardinals Lost: 4.2 WAR
- Lance Lynn (FA) – 1.3 WAR
- Zach Duke (FA) – 0.2 WAR
- Seung Hwan Oh (FA) – 0.1 WAR
- Juan Nicasio (FA) – 0.5 WAR
- Stephen Piscotty (Trade) – 1.4 WAR
- Aledmys Diaz (Trade) – 1.0 WAR
- Daniel Castano (Trade) – 0.0 WAR
- Magneuris Sierra (Trade) – (-0.6 WAR)
- Sandy Alcantara (Trade) – 0.2 WAR
- Zac Gallen (Trade) – 0.1 WAR
Cardinals Added: 6.0 WAR
- Luke Gregerson (FA) – 0.6 WAR
- Miles Mikolas (FA) – 1.9 WAR
- Marcell Ozuna (Trade) – 3.5 WAR
- J.B. Woodman (Trade) – 0.0 WAR
Cardinals Net WAR: +1.8 WAR
Cubs Net WAR: -2.8 WAR
So, if we were saying those are the changes for the teams if they’d otherwise just carried forward into 2018 as they were (i.e., “the gap”), then the offseason moves would bring the Cubs’ record to 89-72 and the Cardinals’ record to 85-77 (if you’re rounding both in the Cardinals’ favor).
Gap closed! Kinda!
So, have they, so far, closed the gap? Yes, I suppose so, but even this kind of shallow dive into the numbers shows that there’s still a four-game difference between the two teams and the Cubs have – at least – one very big addition (a starting pitcher) remaining. If that guy were Yu Darvish, for one example, the Cubs would add another 3.5-4.0 games to their lead (it doesn’t really work like this, but for the purposes of this post and the discussion, we’ll stay consistent).
The Cardinals’ offseason isn’t over either, of course, but it certainly feels like the majority of their big moves are out of the way (though it’s always hard to say, I suppose). So to answer Rogers’ question on whether or not they’ve closed the gap, my answer is “yes … but only for the moment.”