Back at the quarter-season mark in May, I ranked the performance of each Cubs player on a wins above replacement (WAR) per dollar basis. Those rankings have now been updated to reflect performance from that last post through the All-Star break.
Javier Baez – $101,311 per win
El Mago earned a team-best 2.5 bWAR since the quarter mark and is on pace for 6.5 bWAR overall. Not only is this a huge increase on his career high of 3.2, but it represents the edge of MVP consideration. Baez is still boom or bust, but the booms are bigger and more frequent and the busts shorter than in seasons past.
Wilson Contreras – $123,177 per win
Contreras doubled his 1.4 bWAR from the quarter-mark (in a few more games, admittedly) and earned his first All-Star nod. It was well deserved. His power numbers remain down on the season, but his OBP is at a career high, which is a fair trade-off.
Albert Almora Jr. – $151,584 per win
Almora’s WAR accumulation slowed in the second quarter, but I actually think he improved. His slash line against righties (previously his Achilles heel) rose from .284/.338/.365 at the quarter mark to .318/.356/.432. Almora’s platoon days are over and he is the primary center fielder for the next five years.
Kyle Schwarber – $164,236 per win
Schwarber stays in the No. 4 spot on this list and has the smallest change in $/WAR from the quarter mark. Like Almora, Schwarber has greatly improved his platoon splits. He raised his average and OBP against lefties from .190/.346 at the quarter mark to .240/.377 at the break.
He still has a stark disparity in slugging (.549 v. RHP; .280 v. LHP), but his rising average against lefties suggest he is slowly solving the problem. Schwarber’s defensive improvement also appears to be a permanent feature of his game. I expect Schwarber’s thrilling Home Run Derby performance to be a prelude to his first All-Star appearance next year.
Ian Happ – $361,347 per win
Happ really improved since the quarter mark, rising four spots in these rankings. He is swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone, which speaks to better pitch recognition. Unfortunately, Happ is not punishing the strikes he does swing at. Anecdotally, I have seen Happ swing through a higher percentage of pitches in the zone than any other Cub.
Carl Edwards – $564,843 win
Edwards added 0.5 WAR since the quarter mark, which is impressive given that he was injured during half of that period. With overuse (and injury) a concern for some of his other late-inning relief colleagues, the Cubs need a healthy Edwards to help spread the high-leverage load.
Mike Montgomery – $581,246 per win
Montgomery moved from the bullpen to the rotation and added 0.5 WAR doing so, but he is trending in the wrong direction. In his first seven starts, Montgomery had a 2.43 ERA over 41 IP. It has not been pretty since. Hopefully, Yu Darvish is ready to return soon.
Addison Russell – $702,213 per win
Russell had a great second quarter with 1.6 bWAR earned since our first check. That is third best on the Cubs and almost no one is lamenting that the Cubs let Manny Machado get away.
Victor Caratini – $1.55M per win
Caratini was briefly demoted to give veteran Chris Gimenez a chance on the roster. He’s back and now has the backup catcher spot for good.
Kyle Hendricks – $2.17Mm per win
Hendricks had a rough June and early July. but he looked better in his last two starts before the break and has a history as a good second-half performer. On the other hand, he did not look good last Thursday against the Cardinals.
- Steve Cishek – $2.65M per win
- Brian Wilson – $2.69M per win
- Pedro Strop – $3.33M per win
- Brandon Morrow – $3.95M per win
With Edwards and Brian Duensing unavailable for stretches in the second quarter, these four formed the heart of the bullpen. So it is appropriate they rank in series. Collectively, they have earned 2.3 bWAR since the quarter mark.
Kris Bryant $4.13M per win
A shoulder injury sapped Kris Bryant’s power for weeks and then necessitated a DL trip. As a result, he lost 0.4 WAR since the quarter mark. It is a testament to the depth of the Cubs that they have the best record and run differential in the NL in spite of Bryant’s troubles. If he returns to form in the second half, the Cubs will really be dangerous.
Jon Lester – $5.20M per win
Lester turned it on after the quarter mark, adding 2.1 bWAR (second only to Javy on the team) and earning an All-Star berth. Lester embraced a new pitching philosophy as his velocity and repertoire deteriorate with age, sacrificing strikeouts and walks in favor of contact, thereby utilizing the Cubs’ league-best defense behind him. It is working!
Ben Zobrist – $5.23M per win
Zobrist was already having a strong bounce-back year at the quarter mark. If anything, he improved since then with 1.2 additional WAR. The biggest problem is finding Zobrist at-bats, given the strong seasons from several players with whom he was platooning earlier. The Cubs may need to consider working him in with Rizzo at first.
Tommy La Stella 5.42M per win
Who suspected La Stella would become a clubhouse leader?
Jose Quintana – $5.61M per win
Quintana bounced back from a horrible start with 1.3 bWAR after the quarter mark and is showing flashes of the pitcher he should be. He is still not pitching to his fullest potential, but at least he is no longer abusing the bullpen.
Jason Heyward – $8.76M per win
J-Hey is back! In my mind, Heyward is the Cubs’ biggest second-quarter story. He earned 1.2 bWAR after the quarter mark and is slashing .285/.344/.431 for the season. I repeat: For the season. In 2016 and ’17 that would have been considered a hot streak for him. Heyward shined in the two spot during Bryant’s injury and has been remarkably clutch, delivering a .360+ average with men in scoring position. This is the guy the Cubs paid for.
Anthony Rizzo – $20.8M per win
I have no idea what was up with Rizzo. His slumps are getting more and more frequent and the hot streaks less so. On the bright side, he has a track record of success and he has been red hot since the break (which is not included here). If he bounces back, my comments for Bryant are even more applicable here.
Tyler Chatwood – 0 WAR
Chatwood has been worth -0.8 WAR since the quarter mark and the Cubs have a tough choice to make when Darvish returns. How committed are they to Chatwood and his two remaining contract years? They have options to replace Chatwood should it come to that. There’s Montgomery, obviously. But Duane Underwood Jr. looked good in his debut and Drew Smyly is getting close to returning from Tommy John rehab.
Brian Duensing – -0.9 WAR
Duensing fell off a cliff after the quarter mark, earning -1.6 WAR. But that is mostly the result of only a few outings. Duensing is back on the roster after a DL stint for a sore shoulder and if his issues were health related, he should bounce back. If not, the parade of AAA shuttle relievers can cover his innings.
Yu Darvish – has not pitched
Darvish has been on the DL since that first post, so there’s nothing to update on him.
Bonus Feature – Daydream Cubs: 1992
The 1927 Yankees earned 66.3 team bWAR, the highest team WAR in baseball history. The 2016 Cubs had 57 bWAR and the famous 1908 Cubs had under 42. I offer this as context because the 1992 Daydream Cubs earn 82.2 bWAR. That is roughly equivalent to adding Mike Trout, Max Scherzer, and Clayton Kershaw to the 2016 Cubs. This is the type of team I had in mind when I started this little fantasy.
1992 Draft: (#) Player’s real-life selection round; AS= All-Star; GG = Gold Glove.
Round 1: Jason Giambi (2) – 1B: AS (x5), MVP (x1)