The offseason is not over. Jim Hendry still has time to add more players. But as we wait for spring training, there's nothing wrong with debating Jim Hendry's progress report this offseason. Have the Cubs gotten better?
To answer this question, I'm going to make use of Baseball Prospectus' powerful PECOTA predictions, a computer program which takes in a lot of player data to make some of the best projections available for future seasons. To compare the outgoing players with the incoming players, I'll be using the short-hand statistic WARP, "Wins Above Replacement Player," which takes into account offense, defense, and playing time. So, when PECOTA predicts a WARP of 3.9 for Milton Bradley, it's already taking into account that he's only going to play a partial season.
PECOTA is not perfect, of course, and there's plenty of room to debate these projections, but it's no dummy either and gives us a good baseline to debate: Have the Cubs gotten better?
Kerry Wood (2.9 WARP, $10 M)
Felix Pie (2.6 WARP, $0.4 M)
Mark DeRosa (2.4 WARP, $5.5 M)
Jim Edmonds (2.0 WARP, ??$)
Jason Marquis (1.5 WARP, $9.875 M, Cubs paying $.875 M)
Bob Howry (1.2 WARP, $2.75 M)
Rich Hill (1.0 WARP, $.445 M)
Michael Wuertz (1.0 WARP, $1.1 M)
Ronny Cedeno (0.8 WARP, $.8 M)
Daryle Ward (0.6 WARP, ??$)
Henry Blanco (0.4 WARP, $.75 M)
Jose Ceda (0.0 WARP, $.4 M)
This gives us a total of 16.4 wins going out with roughly $31 M saved.
Milton Bradley (3.9 WARP, $9 M)
Kevin Gregg (1.9 WARP, $4.2 M)
Aaron Heilman (1.3 WARP, $1.625 M)
Luis Vizcaino (1.2 WARP, $3.5 M)
Jeff Stevens (0.8 WARP, $.4 M)
Joey Gathright (0.6 WARP, $0.8 M)
Aaron Miles (0.4 WARP, $2.2 M)
Paul Bako (0.3 WARP, $.725 M
This gives us 10.4 wins coming back with a little over $23 M spent.
A few head-to-head comparisons:
PECOTA likes the Marquis for Vizcaino trade. We gave up a third of a win, saving a lot of money. The combination of Heilman and Marshall should improve on Marquis in that 5th starter spot, with Vizcaino taking one of their spots in the 'pen well enough.
PECOTA thinks Jim Hendry chose well in Milton Bradley, giving him a higher WARP than Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu. PECOTA also sees a bounceback for Kosuke Fukudome (yes, it does take into account second-half splits), giving Kosuke a tenth WARP advantage on Felix Pie.
On the other hand, the infield decisions don't look so good to PECOTA. PECOTA likes Mike Fontenot well enough, but not Aaron Miles. Together they rate 2.1 WARP, a win less than DeRosa and Cedeno, at a savings of only $3.7 M. This needs some careful consideration, however. While sticking with Cedeno over Miles would have saved $1.4 M, Ronny and Aaron have opposite splits. Ironically, Miles, the switch-hitter, hits leftys better and Ronny the right-hander hits rightys better. Miles is a better platoon partner for Fontenot. Additionally, PECOTA sees some potential in Jeff Stevens.
PECOTA doesn't like Jose Ceda, and gives Kevin Gregg a better-than-expected projection. So, that trade is a winner in the immediate short-term. However, in an off-season where relievers' prices have dropped quite a bit, the Cubs have saved relatively little on the 'pen overall while taking a decent hit in wins moving from Wood-Howry-Wuertz to Gregg-Heilman-Vizcaino. Granted some of the cost in Vizcaino comes as "savings" from Marquis.