As it is now 2017, we wanted to take one last look at what 2016 meant to the now World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. We’re doing a multi-part series recapping the Cubs offseason, regular season, and postseason.
2015-2016 Offseason Grade: A
The Cubs were one of the most active teams in the 2015-2016 offseason knowing that after a 96 win season, they needed to add a few more pieces to be truly a championship level team. I was actually surprised by how much they spent, but as you know it worked out well. Here are the moves they made chronologically:
Signed John Lackey 2 year, 36 Million Dollar deal (December 4th)
Traded Starlin Castro for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan (December 9th)
Signed: Ben Zobrist 4 year, 56 Million Dollar Deal (December 9th)
Signed: Jason Heyward 8 year, 184 Million Dollar Deal (December 11th)
Traded: Chris Coghlan for Aaron Brooks (February 25th)
Signed: Dexter Fowler 1 year, 8 million (February 26th )
After a 96 win season, you typically don’t see a team go out and spend 266 million dollars in December, but the Cubs front office was aggressive and made a bunch of Smart moves. What impressed me was there foresight to sign guys who may have not been at a position of need like Ben Zobrist, and make a trade that enabled them to improve their team and make Zobrist’s contract even more manageable.
Chris Coghlan for Aaron Brooks: A
When the news broke about this trade, people were perplexed about the reasoning behind this deal for the first hour until they found out Dexter Fowler was returning. Once again, in a vacuum, Chris Coghlan appeared to be a better player than Aaron Brooks. He was a solid corner outfielder with a .792 OPS and averaged 13 homers in two seasons with the cubs. But, when you get Dexter Fowler as your starting Centerfielder and you need to get rid of someone in a crowded outfield with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, and potentially Ben Zobrist, there was no question Coghlan was the odd man out. Ultimately, Brooks struggled in Iowa couldn’t really stay healthy and is expected to start next year in Triple A. He wasn’t needed this year at all, but time will tell as to whether or not he can be someone who can contribute on the big league level. The odds are he won’t but that’s okay because like the Adam Warren deal, the Cubs take risks, some of which work out and some of which don’t. In a funny wrinkle, like the Adam Warren trade, the cubs actually re-acquired Coghlan in May after Schwarber went down and Soler got injured, and he wasn’t as productive as he had been in his previous two years as a Cub. Cogs, who struggled in Oakland hitting just .146, was solid for the cubs in his return hitting .252 and had a strong OBP of .391, and was able to give the Cubs the depth they needed to overcome injuries. The trade to get him back, was a smart one, as they only gave up Arismendy Alcantara, a fringe prospect who didn’t have much of a chance at making an impact in the crowded Cubs organization and wasn’t one of the players drafted by the new regime. His production in Oakland was OK, and the deal for them wasn’t bad either because they had little use for Chris Coghlan on an expiring contract as a team that wasn’t close to making the playoffs. So trading Alcantara for Aaron Brooks and retaining Chris Coghlan ended up being just fine for the club.
Dexter Fowler Signing Grade: A+
2016 Stats: .276 BA, .393 OBP, .447 SLG, .840 OPS 13 HR’s, 13 SB, 4.7 WAR (Fangraphs) 4.3 WAR (ESPN)
Out of all of the moves the Cubs made that winter, I think this one was the best, and it wasn’t exactly planned. Kind of like accidentally having a third kid because you forgot to pull out, and that kid ends up being super successful and pays for your dream home. Dexter wasn’t expected to come back to the Cubs after a solid 2015 campaign because he was looking for a long-term deal. In fact, he reportedly signed a 3 year- 35 million dollar contract but backed out because the Orioles wouldn’t give him an opt-out clause after year one. So, Dex bet on himself by signing a 2 year 17 million dollar deal with the Cubs that included a mutual option on the second year worth 9 million dollars and a 5 million dollar buyout. So, he was essentially guaranteed 13 million dollars if he decided to stay for only 1 year. He was worth every penny. Dexter was worth 2.75 WAR in 2015 combining Fangraphs and ESPN’s values and was essentially worth $21.175 Million if you expected a repeat. Well, the Cubs got an even better bargain as he was worth 4.5 WAR or 34.65 million on the open market. That’s 20 million dollars in value. Damn. Not to mention the fact that Dexter missed 37 games, almost a quarter of the season, and put up great numbers. If you extrapolate his stats to a 160 game season Dex’s WAR would be 5.76 and would’ve had 17 homers and 17 stolen bases. This doesn’t even tell the full story. The Cubs also didn’t have a full-time Centerfielder until he had signed, and Jason Heyward’s value as an exceptional Right Fielder may not have been as strong as an average right fielder. Not only did they not have a real centerfielder, the cubs also didn’t have an established lead-off guy. Dex’s “you go, we go” mentality carried the team, and their record was 85-40 in games that he played, or a 110 win pace.
Dexter’s contributions didn’t stop in the regular season, and he had a huge homerun to start game 7 of the World Series, and also doubled off of the best pitcher in the MLB, leading off with a double against Kershaw in Game 6 of the NLCS and set the tone of the pennant winning game. Dexter was a class act for the Cubs, improved his defense and hitting in his second season, and was loved by players and fans alike. His time in Chicago will forever be remembered, and the Cubs won’t be the same next year without him leading off. He rightfully earned a big 5 year, 80 million dollar contract this year, and I’m not upset with him at all for signing with the Cardinals. He signed a hometown discount last year, played really well, acted classy throughout the entire process, and brought a world series to Chicago for the first time in 108 years. He deserved to make a business decision for his family, and I hope the Cubs offered him at least 4 years and 60 million. But we’ll talk about that more in the next column talking about the Cubs 2016-2017 offseason. Thank You Dexter for being a great Cub, you deserve a standing ovation when you return to Wrigley in 2017.