You won’t be receiving groundbreaking revelations here, but you will see quantified some stuff that you already thought about the Chicago Cubs’ offseason. It was bad.
And that isn’t to touch on the Yu Darvish trade, for example, which actually may yet prove to have been a tremendous move for the Cubs. We’re just talking for now about the free agent signings the Cubs eventually allowed themselves to pursue – guys late in the offseason like Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams, and Joc Pederson.
You will be unsurprised to find that the Cubs are waaaaay down on these charts:
The Blue Jays Made Baseball’s Best Free Agent Acquisitions https://t.co/aJqTLizGtQ
— FanGraphs Baseball (@fangraphs) August 13, 2021
The vast majority of teams added WAR in their free agent signings. That’s kinda how it works, generally speaking. How well you do in free agency is less about adding or subtracting wins, it’s about how you do relative to expectations and dollars for the players you sign. But for the Cubs, they didn’t even get to that part … because their free agent signings have accounted for NEGATIVE WAR this year.
At just shy of -1.0 WAR, the Cubs have received the 4th worst level of contribution from free agent signings, led by the Jake Arrieta signing (pro-rates out to about -1.0 WAR this year on his own). Arrieta, of course, was just released. If you include free agent re-signings (where the Cubs get a big boost from guys like Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera and Patrick Wisdom), the Cubs turn positive, and are only the 11th worst in baseball.
Since the Cubs didn’t sign a bunch of guys projected to be negative in WAR, you can also correctly conclude that the Cubs are way down there in relative signing success – i.e., not only have their signings performed poorly, they’ve performed among the worst in baseball relative to their projections. For the Cubs, free agent signings accounted for about 3.0 WAR *BELOW* their projected WAR (4th worst in baseball). The teams that show up below the Cubs in those two metrics: Rangers, Braves, Twins, and Phillies.
In other words, the Cubs didn’t make a lot of great signings in the first place, and then also those signings greatly underperformed expectations. If the Cubs are going to be competitive in 2022, they will obviously need to do very well in this phase of the roster-building process.
If you were curious who did well, look to the Mets, Rays, Giants, and A’s, all of whom received nearly 2.0 WAR more than projected from their free agent signings. As for which teams simply did well to add as much WAR as possible, regardless of projections for those players, it was the Blue Jays (George Springer and Marcus Semien), Giants, Mets, Royals, and White Sox at the top.