Because of Dexter Fowler, Yovani Gallardo, Austin Jackson and a few others, the 2015-2016 offseason isn’t quite over. Still, with a few small exceptions, the majority of free agency has been completed, and teams have begun finalizing their payrolls and locking in their rosters. There are still moves to be made – impactful moves, even – this late in to February, but for the most part, this offseason is coming to a close.
And it was a crazy one.
We knew that it was going to be an exciting offseason, thanks to the enormous free agent class, but there were still many surprises. Arguably, two of three biggest free agent signings this winter (Jason Heyward to the Cubs and Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks) were completely unpredicted at the beginning of the offseason. Some free agents (Denard Span, Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes) received far less than anticipated, while others (Justin Upton, Chris Davis, Ian Kennedy, Zack Greinke) received far more.
And none of this is to mention the trades that went down.
You’ll be happy to find that the Cubs made the list, although, you might be surprised how (well, I guess not really, because of the title, but you get it) ….
Yes, according to David Schoenfield, the Cubs’ signing of John Lackey to a two-year, $32 million dollar deal was the third best offseason move in MLB. Schoenfield realizes Lackey wasn’t the big splash Cubs fans were expecting (like David Price, or Greinke), but applauds the extremely low cost in comparison. If Lackey comes within a half a run of his 2015 2.77 ERA, Schoenfield contends, the Cubs will be happy.
John Lackey wasn’t the sexiest move, we can all agree on that, but it really might have been one of the quietly smartest moves of the offseason. For just $32 million, the Cubs filled out their rotation, especially over the fifth spot last season, at an fantastically low price. The flexibility this provided might not be completely calculable, but I assure you it’s hugely important. (Quite possibly, the low cost improvement in the rotation, might have been the reason the Cubs were able to go after guys like Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, all in the same offseason).
And, assuming for a minute that the Cubs essentially had to improve in the rotation, Lackey was – by a long shot – the most cost-effective way to do so. His total free agent dollars, even at 37, are looking like a bargain compared to the current cost of pitching in free agency. Throw in the fact that he was projected and rumored to be offered much more elsewhere – and it’s easy to see why this move made the list.
As far as the Cubs go, would you consider Lackey their best deal of the offseason? It’s hard to say.
You might be inclined to lean towards Heyward, but there is certainly a great deal of money committed to him, and he might leave after just three years. Zobrist’s deal was under market, as well, but he is on the older side and looking for a defensive bounce back in 2016. Trevor Cahill’s deal was low cost, but comes with a lot less upside. And lastly, Adam Warren strikes me as a potentially fantastic deal, but we might not know that for at least a year or two when he begins starting with greater frequency (and assuming Starlin Castro doesn’t re-explode).
So, then, Lackey’s low-cost deal – which may have paved a way for the bigger deals to get done – could very well prove to be the most important one the Cubs made for 2016. Completely unexpected offseason? Yes. Completely welcomed, in retrospect? Hell yes.