While Brett Jackson will return to AAA next year thanks to a poor performance at the big league level, he will get another chance at some point. I'm just not sure it will be with this team. The Cubs have a couple very attractive options this winter. The first is free agent B.J. Upton who is almost certain to not be re-signed by the Rays.
Upton turned 28 at the end of August so he's right in the middle of his prime years and plays a position the Cubs will look to get better at. Executives that Jerry Crasnick spoke with estimated that Upton would earn about $27 million over 3 years to about $70 million over 5 years. It's not even clear that the Rays would present a qualifying offer (roughly $13 million) to Upton so that if he declined, the Rays would get an additional draft pick. I think it's more likely than not that the Rays will do that, but it is somewhat of a gamble, especially if the best Upton can do is closer to the bottom range of what the executives said. At that point Upton might think about playing another year in Tampa Bay, earning $13 million or so and hoping he puts together a stronger season so he could then enter free agency the following winter. It's not a slam dunk that the Rays make that qualifying offer. That decision will depend on what they learn over the next few weeks.
UZR thinks Upton is about average in CF and DRS sees him as well below average. FRAA has him at average. Depending on what other metrics team use they might think he needs to move to a corner outfield spot, but others will have no problem putting him in CF with the possibility of moving to a corner later on.
Upton is an excellent baserunner.
I've talked about his defense and baserunning first because it still surprises me how little production he provided the Rays when I think back to what his potential was after being drafted. In his first full season he looked like he was going to become the superstar that people expected he'd become, but it never happened. His career wOBA is .333, which is a 107 wRC+. Over the last few years his wOBA has been pretty consistent. It was .328 in 2010 and then .333 and .323 this past year. His wRC+ in 2010 was 107 and it was 107 in 2012.
He's a better than league average bat, but that's about it. One defensive metric thinks he's lousy while two others believe he is average. Over the last three seasons his fWAR was 4.1, 4.1 and 3.3 in 2012. His rWAR was 1.0, 2.8 and 2.6 while his WARP 3.7, 3.0 and 2.1. He's been an above average player, but nothing great, which is why these executives are so split on how much they think he'll earn going forward.
PECOTA's 10-year forecast projected 2.3 WARP for Upton in 2013 followed by 2.4, 2.3, 2.1 and 1.9 in 2017. Obviously these forecasts will be slightly different when PECOTA's 2013 forecasts are available, but that's a good enough starting point.
If we assume Upton will sign for 3, 4 or 5 years we're looking at a projected 7 WARP, 9.1 WARP, or 11 WARP. Let's say the average win value over the next 3 years is $5.5 million, $5.75 million over the next 4 years and $6 million over a 5-year contract.
That gives us the following potential contracts (rounded to the nearest million).
- 3 years: $39 million
- 4 years: $52 million
- 5 years: $66 million
Based on the available projection at this point it would seem the executives both underestimated BJ Upton's value and also overestimated it. That is, if these forecasts are accurate, the dollars per win are accurate and so on. This is the best I can do given the information that I have. Nothing more.
That price range is definitely something the Cubs can afford. They've already said they're going to be spending money this offseason and I think it's safe to say they don't mean David DeJesus or Paul Maholm type money. They probably don't mean Josh Hamilton type money either, but BJ Upton won't come anywhere near Hamilton.
I actually think this will be the Cubs "big" free agent signing of the offseason. I'm also going to guess closer to 5/70.
BJ won't be the only Upton coming to Chicago. It's fairly clear at this point that the Diamondbacks will be looking to trade Justin Upton. Some of you are thinking I'm overly optimistic, but I'm nothing if not optimistc. In fact, everywhere I go people say to me "mb21, you are an optimistic fucking guy."
I won't talk any further about Justin Upton since I did so quite recently. His estimated surplus trade value is about $33 million meaning he's worth a top 10 hitting prospect or a couple top 10 pitching prospects. Obviously the Cubs don't have the pitching, but Javier Baez is pretty close to top 10 hitting. The Cubs would still have some nice looking bats in their lower minors if they were to deal him and someone like Matt Garza to Arizona to acquire Upton. It's a deal the Cubs can make and should. Upton would be the team's best player and a core of talent that includes him, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and even BJ Upton would be a very nice foundation. Three of them are still young enough they haven't even reached their peaks and the other is at his peak.
The Cubs will have to patch up the rotation the best they can, but this would instantly make the Cubs offense a hell of a lot more interesting than it has been. They'd have a group to build around for the next several years and could surely contend in the next few years if they really wanted to.