Dan has already released the 2012 ZiPS for the Cubs so I thought I’d highlight several players and post them here.
The top guy (Pena) is a free agent. Ramirez will probably decline his option and look for a multi-year deal. Of the players under contract for next season, Bryan LaHair is the team’s best hitter. Castro and Soto aren’t far behind. Neither is Brett Jackson. ZiPS thinks Jackson is the Cubs best hitting outfielder and it’s probably right. According to ZiPS, Clevenger and Castillo should be battling it out for the back-up catcher’s role, which is probably what will happen. If Hendry was the GM we might have seen Hill return, but with Theo I’d say there’s just slightly better than a 0% chance of that.
ZiPS thinks Soriano will still hit for a lot of power, but his OBP will again be below .300. Overall, his wOBA projection is close to league average (a bit below).
LaHair, Castro, Soto and Jackson are all above average hitters and then there’s a rather big drop after those four. The projection for Jeff Baker seems low to me. Maybe it’s projecting him to not be a platoon guy and facing way more righties than lefties. As down as I’ve been on Josh Vitters, I have to say that projection is a lot better than I’d have thought. It’s not good, but he basically is projected to have a .300 wOBA and he’s still very young. He’s never going to be a superstar and probably won’t ever be a starter, but he could still be useful if he can continue to play 3rd base.
You might think it’s important for the Cubs to re-sign Pena since he has a projected .360 wOBA, but his replacement is projected to hit .343. What’s the difference?
The difference in terms of runs is about 8 in favor of Pena or .8 WAR. If the value of the win next season is 5% higher than this year, it would be about $4.8 million. That .8 WAR improvement is worth $3.8 million. In other words, if you can sign Pena for that amount or less, go for it. It would improve the team. Let’s just increase it to $5 million because of the uncertainty to play it safe. If the Cubs can sign Pena to a contract worth $5 million for one year they should go ahead and do it. If Pena wants anything more than that, go with LaHair at 1st. Pena got $10 million last year and had a solid season. He’s probably worth close to $10 million the free agent market so it’s unlikely he’d accept such little money for another year.
The great thing about the new Cubs front office is that they’ll be making rational decisions. They won’t use WAR figures that I’ve quoted here. They have their own metrics or soon will. Theo talked about future projections and those may vary significantly from what ZiPS finds. The various projection systems that come out will have a wide range of wOBA’s. CAIRO has Pena hitting .340 and LaHair at .320. The difference is about the same in runs, but it’s possible one system will have one of them at .360 and LaHair at around .310. I don’t have any idea what projections the Cubs will come up with, but the process to determine whether or not they should sign Pena or go with LaHair is the same.