This time of year, I find it interesting to look back on the Cubs’ offseason moves – specifically, the guys the Cubs traded away or allowed to leave in free agency – to see how they’ve played out so far. Good move? Bad move? Is there regret?
The Cubs had an active offseason, what with the new men in charge and all, so there are a ton of names to look at. Some have had a good first half of the 2012 season, others have flopped. Let’s consider what has happened, and how much we regret their departures.
Given the rebuilding nature of the 2012 season, the Cubs elected to go the cheap route at third base with Ian Stewart, rather than resigning Ramirez. Doing so allowed the Cubs to turn Ramirez into Pierce Johnson by way of the supplemental draft pick they netted after the season, but that return could have been considerably more if they’d been able to deal him at the deadline last year. And it’s not like Stewart, who’s now laid up after wrist surgery, blew the doors off the place since arriving.
Ramirez signed a three-year, $36 million deal with the Brewers, which almost certainly would have been a mistake for the Cubs, no matter how well Stewart has performed. After a characteristically slow start, Ramirez rebounded and is hitting .272/.346/.475, which is becoming his new norm as he enters his mid-30s. Fine numbers for a third baseman, but not enough to overcome his declining defense (and the healthy contract he’s playing on). The Cubs would be better with Ramirez, but only a few games better, and only in 2012.
Regret-O-Meter: For the best.
Like Ramirez, Pena didn’t fit the direction of the Cubs for 2012, even as adored as he was in the clubhouse (and in my heart). His departure – on a one-year, $7.25 million deal with the Rays – also netted a supplemental first round pick (Paul Blackburn). But the biggest plus his departure brought the Cubs was the ability to give Bryan LaHair a chance, and then a spot for Anthony Rizzo.
And it doesn’t hurt that Pena is hitting just .201/.337/.372 for the Rays.
You know the story of Carlos Zambrano’s departure: after last strawing his way out the door by walking out on the team in August, the Cubs’ hands were tied, and they dumped him – and a whole lot of cash – on the Marlins. In return, the Cubs took a chance on Chris Volstad, which, to date, has paid off poorly.
For Zambrano’s part, it’s been a mixed bag in Miami. He pitched well to start the year before regressing badly. To date, he’s got a 4.20 ERA (99 ERA+), and a 1.381 WHIP over 17 starts and 100.2 innings. His FIP is 4.43, and his 1.42 K/BB ratio is the worst of his career. He certainly hasn’t been good enough to be missed, considering the headaches and his impending free agency.
So, even if Volstad has been bad …
Regret-O-Meter: Ah. Peace.
After a season lost to twin rotator cuff injuries, Cashner threw out of the bullpen for the Cubs at the very end of the year, and in the Arizona Fall League. And that’s where the Cubs envisioned his future. Fortunately or unfortunately for Cashner (it remains to be seen), the Padres didn’t view him that way, and they were willing to part with top prospect Anthony Rizzo for Cashner (together with a modest prospect on each side). Obviously the Rizzo part has turned out well so far for the Cubs, but how about Cashner? With a farm system barren of high-end starting pitching prospects, was it worth jettisoning Cashner?
We probably don’t know yet, even half-way through the season. The Padres are in the process of converting Cashner back into a starter, and he’s got a 2.53 ERA over his three starts. But you can only nominally call him a starter at this point, because those three “starts” have netted just 10.2 innings. The talent is obviously there. We’ll see about the durability. Hopefully he turns out to be a good one, and so does Rizzo.
Of course, if Rizzo levels off as a good, not great first baseman, and Cashner becomes a capable front-end starter … well …
Needing for a third baseman, the Cubs traded seemingly busted prospect Tyler Colvin (and DJ LeMahieu, too (about whom there isn’t a ton of regret, as he failed to hit in Colorado, and is hitting decently (but not overwhelmingly) in hitter-friendly Colorado Springs right now)) to the Rockies for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers. Obviously the Cubs’ end of the deal hasn’t turned out too well to date, but how about the Rockies’ half?
That’s Colvin’s line, so how do you think it turned out? There are caveats, of course. Colvin’s BABIP is an elevated .346. He’s striking out 24% of the time, and walking just 4.5% of the time. His HR/FB % is a probably-unsustainable 21.3%. And it’s just 200 plate appearances.
But, I mean, they’re great numbers. And he’s hitting well off of lefties, too. Even the park-adjusted OPS+ has him at 138. Quite simply, he’s been great. Where would the Cubs have played him? That’s a fair question. But you hate to give up a cheap, mid-20s kid with that kind of power, who subsequently puts up huge numbers.
Regret-O-Meter: Crap on a cracker.
In the most-talked-about trade of the offseason and the early season, the Cubs sent to-be-free-agent lefty Sean Marshall to the Reds (who subsequently inked him to a friendly three-year extension) in exchange for Travis Wood (who’s pitched well), Ronald Torreyes (who’s struggled at High A (at a very young age)), and Dave Sappelt (who’s struggled at AAA). The Cubs’ side of the deal has turned out all right so far, based largely on Wood’s progress.
As for Marshall, he’s been quite good, but maybe not as dominant as he was in the last two years with the Cubs. After a failed attempt at taking the closer reigns when Ryan Madsen opened the season on the DL (how ridiculous would the Reds’ bullpen have been if Madsen hadn’t hurt his arm?), Marshall slotted back in as a setup man, and pitched like he usually does. Arguably, he’s been even better, posting the best K-rate, BB-rate, and, thus, K/BB ratio of his career.
If I told you the Cubs could have kept Marshall for about $5.5 million per year for the next three years (after this one), would you have wanted to do it? Keeping in mind that the Cubs might not be competitive next year? And that the Cubs would have gained nothing in trade?
I actually don’t know how I feel. He’s a great setup man, and he’s relatively cheap for what he does, but it still doesn’t feel like a good fit right now for this team.
Regret-O-Meter: A little torn.
Gonzalez was surprisingly taken from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft, and ultimately landed in Houston, where he hit .261/.292/.348 as a utility infielder with a decent glove. He “injured his foot” in early June, and has been in the minors since, tearing it up at AAA Oklahoma City. He’ll come back up at some point so that the Astros can be sure to keep him. Gonzalez probably would have gotten a shot at some point this year if he’d stayed on the Cubs – perhaps in place of Adrian Cardenas, depending on how he was hitting at Iowa – and the Cubs would probably have liked to have had a utility infield who can actually play shortstop ready to be summoned from the minors. Further, Gonzalez just turned 23 earlier this year. He could actually prove to be a nice player down the road.
But, in the Cubs’ defense, there wasn’t an overwhelming sentiment that Gonzalez was going to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. After all, he was just 22, and hadn’t ever really hit in the minors, until hitting just a little bit at AA in 2011 (after being promoted mid-season to AAA, he hit just .274/.326/.376).
Regret-O-Meter: Feels more like bad luck than regret.
Another Rule 5 pick, Flaherty was picked up by the Orioles, and figures to stick with them for the rest of the year (or at least for the time required for them to keep him) as a utility player, despite hitting just .213/.242/.277. He plays all over the field, and he’s cheap. Unlike Gonzalez, there was a belief that, if unprotected, Flaherty would be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. The Cubs elected not to protect him, and, although they won’t be getting him back, I doubt they’re too torn up about it. He wasn’t going to get a shot with the Cubs, so at least he got it somewhere.
Regret-O-Meter: I’m OK. Good luck, Ryan.
The Cubs were theoretically poised to rely on Chris Carpenter as a late-inning reliever in 2012 when he was plucked from them as compensation (together with Aaron Kurcz) in Spring Training. The Red Sox, too, expected him to be a late-inning reliever, but he developed (or, more accurately, started feeling) bone spurs in his elbow, and was shipped off for surgery. He’ll try to make it back at some point later this year.
After he finished out an unbelievably improvident two-year extension last year, the Cubs rightly let John Grabow walk. The best he could do thereafter was a minor league deal with the Dodgers, and he didn’t make the team. He isn’t pitching anywhere right now.