Dave Cameron posted his annual look at the 10 best transactions of the off-season and included nine honorable mentions in the FanGraphs report.
The Cubs were one of the busiest teams of the winter. The front office added depth to an already talented roster. Dave Cameron thinks the Cubs made two of the 10 best transactions of the off-season, and two other moves Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer made received honorable mentions.
Cameron ranked the Cubs signing of Ben Zobrist as the ninth best transaction of the off-season. And the Cubs landing Jason Heyward on an eight-year contract checked in at No. 6 on Cameron’s report.
No. 9 – Signing Ben Zobrist for four years and $56 million
The Cubs signed Ben Zobrist to a four-year contract after trying to trade for him multiple times in recent years. Zobrist will primarily play second base, but will move around the diamond also seeing time in the outfield.
“Adding Zobrist as their everyday second baseman not only makes them better at the position than they would have been with either Starlin Castro or Javier Baez, but it allowed the team to ship Castro to New York for Adam Warren.” Cameron pointed out that for $4 million more per year than what the Cubs would have paid Castro, the front office “significantly improved their lineup and their bullpen; it’s hard to make that kind of upgrade for such a modest cost these days.” Cameron did not mention the Cubs acquired INF Brendan Ryan and his $1 million salary as the PTBNL in the Castro-Warren deal and released him.
Ben Zobrist’s Steamer projection is for a .273/.356/.424 line with a .780 OPS (3.0 WAR) and 32 doubles, two triples and 12 home runs. ZiPS projection for Zobrist is .273/.356/.439 with 31 doubles, four triples and 14 home runs (3.2 zWAR). And PECOTA projects Zobrist to bat .263/.348/.415 with 14 home runs (3.6 WARP).
No. 6 – Signing Jason Heyward to an eight-year, $184 million contract
According to Dave Cameron, with the young core the Cubs already had in place, the front office did not need “the best free-agent position player on the market, but they had the resources to poach him from their division rivals, and in doing so, they swung the balance of power in the NL Central for years to come.”
Moving Heyward to center “adds an element of risk to the deal,” according to Cameron, “his overall value should make him a high-quality contributor even as he adjusts to a new position.”
The Cubs bought Heyward’s prime years (age 26-28 seasons or age 26-29 seasons) and “are in perfect position to take advantage of Heyward’s short-term value” even with the opt-outs.
Steamer is projecting a .284/.362/.449 line with a .810 line for Heyward (5.1 WAR) with 34 doubles, three triples and 18 home runs. Heyward’s ZiPS projection is .274/.352/.433 with 29 doubles, three triples and 17 home runs (4.7 zWAR). PECOTA has Heyward batting .261/.340/.430 with 20 home runs (2.6 WARP).
Two of Dave Cameron’s nine honorable mentions are the Cubs acquiring RHP Adam Warren from the Yankees for Starlin Castro and signing free agent RHP John Lackey to a two-year, $32 million contract.
Adam Warren’s Steamer projection is for a 6-5 record in 51 games, 11 starts, with a 3.50 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 3.65 FIP (1.2 WAR). PECOTA has Warren posting a 5-4 record with a 3.97 ERA and 1.32 WHIP (0.6 WARP)
Steamer is projecting John Lackey to post an 11-9 record in 28 starts with a 3.66 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 3.72 FIP (2.6 WAR). And PECOTA projects Lackey to finish with a 13-10 record with a 3.84 ERA and 1.21 WHIP (2.1 WARP).
FanGraphs Top Five Best Transactions of the Off-Season: 1) Braves acquired Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair for Shelby Miller 2) White Sox acquired Todd Frazier in three team deal that cost Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson and Micah Johnson 3) Royals re-signed OF Alex Gordon for four years, $72 million 4) Padres traded Craig Kimbrel to Red Sox for Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra,Carlos Asuaje and Logan Allen 5) Mets re-signed Yoenis Cespedes
The Cubs are not included in Dave Cameron’s worst transactions of the 2016 off-season report, but like just about everything from him, the report is well worth the time.