I’ve written at length about Japanese starter Tsuyoshi Wada, the 33-year-old lefty the Cubs picked up on a minor league deal before the season (after he’d recovered from Tommy John surgery), who has pitched well in his time at AAA and in the bigs. It’s not that I ever suggested he was a star – I just really enjoy seeing guys discarded by other teams finding success with the Cubs, and, from day one, Wada struck me as a guy who could have some success.
Recently, we discussed the option the Cubs hold on Wada for 2015, the price tag for which I estimated was in the $5 million range. Given the possibility of Wada – at worst – as depth or a trade asset, a $5 million commitment didn’t seem overly luxurious.
Well, hey, I can’t mention the times I was right without also mention that I’ve been wrong before. And maybe I was wrong here.
Gordon Wittenmyer reports, in a piece about the Cubs’ near-term pitching situation generally, that the Cubs will not pick up Wada’s $5 million option for 2015. We’ll see if more on this comes out in the coming days, because it’s surprising to see this fact reported – almost in passing in a broader piece – so long before the option decision is actually due to be made.
I’ll grant that the Cubs do, at present, have a great deal of back-of-the-rotation depth (which will only grow as they hopefully pick up front end arm(s) in the offseason, pushing other guys back). I’ll also grant that back-of-the-rotation is Wada’s plausible upside, which would likely be short-term (2015 and maybe 2016). But at just $5 million, given that he has shown – to both the eye and the peripherals – that he can be an average big league starter? I would have thought Wada is an asset worth holding through the offseason. Or at least worth waiting to decide until later in the year.
Interestingly, even if I weren’t wrong about any of that, the Cubs still could be deciding, already, not to keep Wada. What do I mean? Well, not unlike the discussion we had about the options decisions on Yovani Gallardo and Brett Anderson, the Cubs could poke around the market for interest in Wada before they decide to pick up or decline the option. In other words, if Wada does present value at $5 million for 2015, then the Cubs should have no trouble trading him in concert with picking up the option, and getting a little something for their trouble rather than letting Wada go for nothing.
Then again, the pitching market this offseason projects to be quite strong. We often limit our discussions to the upper end of the market, but the middle and lower tiers of the free agent pitching market are also expected to be well-stocked. Given that, maybe Wada’s value, relatively speaking, isn’t all that strong after all.
Options decisions are typically due shortly after the conclusion of the World Series, so we may not know for certain what’s going to happen for a little while yet. Even after this report, it wouldn’t shock me to learn that the Cubs are still mulling their options – no pun intended. But I suppose now the possibility that the Cubs – and, because of the tradability issue, the market – do not project Wada to be worth $5 million in 2015 is squarely on the table.